the cyrenian


Since the articles in Vice and the Houston Chronicle appeared, I have been fielding an extraordinary number of interview requests from television producers who are convinced they’ve discovered the next great story: a compassionate person who is willing to live with young people who have killed a parent. My first visitors, an advance crew from Holland, will arrive for a couple days next week.

At the outset, I want to say a couple things. First of all, I am unaccustomed to speaking about myself like this. For someone who lived for three decades in Minnesota, it is considered unbecoming to hog the spotlight, and I learned my lesson well. By now, reticence is a pretty integral part of my personality. But secondly, I would be pleased if the spark of my example were to catch, if others were to take up the task I have set for myself, and maybe even do it better.

However, I have come to the conclusion that we live in a pretty unforgiving society. I never meet with any resistance when I say that most kids are “hard-wired” not to harm those who feed them—even horrible parents. I am fearful that this “great story” will prove to be a flash in the pan. I expect that most people will just go back to their old ways and just let most juvenile parricides rot in prison, forgotten, no matter how awful their lives have been.

But maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am.

The fact is, there’s not a lot going on at Estrella Vista that provides much interest for a camera. Of fourteen kids so far, only two have been released from prison. One of them is living here. The other was a wash-out. A third is due to be released in June, but has no plans to visit here as far as I know. And a fourth is coming up for parole later this summer, there is no guarantee of his release, but we are offering him a free place to live and begin rebuilding his life at age 32. So even if he does show up, the camera would only show two guys building and an old guy watching. Not exactly gripping TV.

I have voiced these concerns to the producers, yet they seem undeterred. One producer cried as I told her about my experiences. Another told his parents about the story, and he says they visibly flinched. A third person, the writer who started this whole thing in Vice, says she’s coming out in June to see for herself. Maybe the story does have legs.

If I ever do end up on camera, I have been wracking my brain for examples which most people would understand. Christian Heroes: I have come up with two. The first I have already written about St. Martin, who famously gave a beggar half his coat. The second is St. Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service by Roman soldiers to help Christ carry his cross during the last passion (and memorialized by the Catholics as one of the Stations of the Cross). I have heard that the Cyrenian or Simon movement, centered in the UK and Ireland, takes its name from Simon of Cyrene. It has as its guiding principle “sharing the burden” which it uses to explain its approach to providing services to homeless and other disadvantaged groups in society, often using volunteers.

No matter how daunting the challenge may seem, I am committed to helping parricides rebuild their lives if they want to start here. I’ll go to the mat to help.



Weather Report

89° and Fog in the morning, then Clearing


2 Responses to “the cyrenian”

  1. 1 elizabeth t.
    May 21, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Dan, I have no trust in the media and I hope you don’t either. At the risk of being cynical, beware of the hidden agenda which will be to sensationalize you and the kids in prison, and your work. You are likely to be quoted out of context at the very least. They are looking for a story – their story, not yours. Take great care with this.

    • May 21, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Elizabeth, I often describe this predicament to my kids as a “devil’s bargain.” Without publicity, there are no new audience members… and without new audience members, there are no contributions for our work… or, at the least, relying on the very institutions which are the oppressors for grants. Given the choices available, we are forced to rely on the goodwill of those members of the media who offer the best chance of presenting our story with heart and veracity. I wish it were otherwise, but unfortunately it is not.

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