can we lead with softness?

by rebecca on September 29, 2011

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I live in a country where a huge number of people don’t want to give a last meal to a person headed to the gallows and it makes me want to barf. What does that say about us? Who are we cultivating in our citizenry?


Texas Senator John Whitmire says, “I have long been opposed to the practice of providing a meal of choice to death row inmates just prior to their execution.” He goes on to list a massive meal which the inmate, in all likelihood, did not receive.


Brian Price, who cooked over 200 such meals, says the prison uses groceries available on site to prepare the requested meals. He made creative adjustments to make fish appear more like lobster for example. The reason for a last meal is a compassionate gesture, an act of Grace, not an all out bid to reproduce an imagined ideal.


I thought of my 14 year old son who has been sleeping without a flat sheet on his bed for the last several years. He’s a bit of a slob. I can barely go in his room. But whose fault is that really? He is just being a boy, doing what comes natural.


Recently I bought him some nice sheets and told him I wanted to take care of him and teach him to appreciate a made bed. I carefully washed the flannel sheets with fabric softener so they’d smell good and I made the bed, tucking in all the corners.


I don’t know if my son will appreciate the softer things in life. What I know is that caring for him in this way changed the way I think about him. It changed me. I accuse my son of being messy, but have I taken the time to teach him to be neat? Do I nourish him and cultivate his desire for the soft things in life so that he will want a flat sheet and a made bed?


If we, as a society, refuse to feed a last meal to a person we have determined to kill, what does it say about us? It’s not about the criminal. It’s about the society we’re nourishing. Do we want to tell our children we were unwilling to grant another man his dying wish for something to eat that might remind him of his mother, or of a happier time in his life?


I want my kids to be able to follow my example. In my home I’ve determined I will make the beds to foster softness until people can find a desire for softness on their own.


And while we’re at it, maybe could we set the example that we don’t kill people to teach folks it’s wrong to kill?


How about you? Shall we feed those who we are about to execute? Is it possible for a parent (or a society) to lead with softness? Do you sleep with one sheet or two? Where is the soft spot in your life?


 You might enjoy this story on NPR where Brian Price talks about why he is willing to feed every last meal to Texas death row inmates at his own expense.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

SuziCate September 30, 2011 at 9:56 am

“Do we want to tell our children we were unwilling to grant another man his dying wish for something to eat that might remind him of his mother, or of a happier time in his life?” -This one sentence gives us much to think about that perhaps we never have, thank you.
My kids for some reason also did not like a flat sheet, I’m thinking it’s a boy thing! Never mattered how often I made their beds or taught them…but now they’re grown and appreciate a nicely made bed. And of course, I sleep with two sheets and soft blankets!
I have lotss of soft spots, especially animals, small children, and elderly…or maybe one could simply say those who can’t speak for themselves.


rebecca September 30, 2011 at 10:41 am


Love this: “Those who can’t speak for themselves”.


6512 and growing October 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

I love what you’re doing for your son. i like this approach of caring and nurturing to teach caring and nurturing, or just to care and nurture. I bet your son will love it too.


rebecca October 6, 2011 at 12:28 pm


Honestly, this has been so fascinating to me. You will get this because you have all that “hunter” energy in your home. He’s been a little bold lately about brushing away my softness. He’s busy “manning up.” Then the other day he sheepishly told me, “Mom, I really do like that flat sheet. It’s so soft.” He practically whispered this last part, as if men are not supposed to like soft things. I nodded, fearful of making too big a deal out of it. I think it’s interesting this tug-of-war that goes with growing up.


Roxanne October 10, 2011 at 6:51 am

In my mind, leading with softness, compassion and kindness is the only way to lead… Thank you for this post, and for the NPR link at the bottom. Heart-breaking and touching.


denise October 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm

When I was younger, I used to practically spit at the TV when last meals of death-row inmates were announced. “Well, what did the person whom you maimed and killed have to eat as THEIR last meal, huh?” I used to think that the killer deserved no softness, no grace. No forgiveness.

Now, I feel differently. Now, forgiveness is a part of my life on a much grander scale (I used to feel that some acts were categorically “unforgivable”). Now, I’m willing to consider more.

Did the death-row killer ever have any softness in their life? How did they end up there, where they were? What life circumstances lead them there? These questions swirl through my mind. I still don’t have my answers.

I love the way you wove in the story about your son and his soft, flannel top sheet. Very eloquent and insightful.

Thanks, as always, for putting my mind to work. xo


rebecca October 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm


Your sentiments speak my mind precisely. I taught a writing class to prisoners this summer and their lives (as they wrote about them) were caca. No wonder they were where they were. I wanted to take them all home with me and show them what a real home with real food and real love felt like. Then we could see where they might end up.


jacqui January 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm

I just ran across an e-mail you sent some time ago which included this web site. Are there more recent ones?

I’d love hearing from you again.


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