Circling back and following up

Revisiting some stories from previous columns

May 23, 2010|By Dan Rodricks

Circling back and following up . . .

An April column on Madi Slaughter, the 9-year-old Mount Airy girl who collected nearly 600 hats for the earthquake victims of Haiti, ended in a dilemma: how to get them shipped to Port-au-Prince and onto the heads of people left homeless by the disaster? It happens that St. John's Episcopal Church in Glyndon has for years supported a school in the mountain village of St. Etienne and a music school in Port-au-Prince. The people of St. John's, already in the process of collecting materials to help the rebuilding effort in Haiti, offered Madi space in the 40-foot cargo container they planned to ship to Port-au-Prince. The third-grader's Hats4Haiti were packed for delivery a couple of weeks ago. Mission accomplished. Put your hands together for Madi and the good people of St. John's.

-o-

Ville-devant-Chaumont, in the Lorraine region of France, erected a monument to a long-gone Baltimorean who is believed to have been the last man to die in World War I. A column on Henry Gunther ran in this space on Nov. 11, 2008, the 90th anniversary of Private Gunther's death, at one minute before the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. He was the last of an estimated 7,000 soldiers who died needlessly in the six hours between the signing of the armistice and the agreed-upon hour of cease-fire. Now comes word from Vereins Nachrichten, its newsletter, that the German Society of Maryland will pay tribute to Henry Gunther at his gravesite in Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, in northeast Baltimore, on Veterans Day next. The ceremony will be at 10 a.m.

-o-

A few years ago, when he was selling crack and carrying a gun in Calvert County, Shelton Brown avoided God — and not because he didn't have time to go to church. "I was doing negative things," he told me in February, "and it would have been hypocritical of me to pray to God at that time."

Kind of refreshing, wasn't it? A drug dealer who refused to feign piousness while selling poison.

But readers might recall Mr. Brown from a column in which he thanked God for providing him with a wakeup call — during four years in a Maryland prison. "I know God has something better for me," he declared after his release on home detention.

Mr. Brown had called from his house in Anne Arundel County for help in finding a job in the toughest market in three decades, extra daunting for a 30-year-old man with a criminal record.

But he found one. Mr. Shelton called back recently to say he had scored a job with a supermarket close to home, and thank God — or at least an open-minded employer — for that.

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A while back, I introduced readers to Maryland's prison librarian, Glennor Shirley, who works quietly but mightily to provide the state's incarcerated population — now about 22,000 men and women — with new books at a time when the funds for them have disappeared. The state has 12 full and 10 satellite prison libraries. They are busy places, recording about a quarter-million visits per year.

Ms. Shirley can't get enough of certain types of books, starting with dictionaries. And the demand is most acute among short-timers, the thousands of men and women who are within months of being released. That population, she says, craves books that might help them prepare for a job once they get home.

Ms. Shirley provided me with a wish-list of books for the libraries in Maryland's minimum and prerelease institutions. "I am hoping to write a grant for these," she says, "but everyone is scrambling for the same pot of available funds."

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