When Anthony Ray Hinton went to death row after a trial that can only be called a travesty of justice, he was understandably angry and heartbroken at how the American justice system had failed him. “When no one believes a word you say, eventually you stop saying anything. I did not say good morning. I did not say good evening. I did not say a how-do-you-do to anyone. If the guards needed some information from me, I wrote it down on a piece of paper. I was angry.
But going into the fourth year, I heard a man in the cell next to mine crying. The love and compassion I had received from my mother spoke through me and asked him what was wrong. He said he had just found out that his mother had passed away. I told him, ‘Look at it this way. Now you have someone in heaven who’s going to argue your case before God.’ And then I told him a joke, and he laughed. Suddenly my voice and my sense of humor were back. For twenty-six long years after that night, I tried to focus on other people’s problems, and every day I did, I would get to the end of the day and realize that I had not focused on my own.” Hinton was able to bring love and compassion to a loveless place, and in doing so he was able to hold on to his joy in one of the most joyless places on the planet.