In week 2 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks to God for Jay Hurdle.
A young man with a prior felony has been working diligently to put his past behind him.
He’s holding down a job. His supervisor praised him as one of the best on staff. He’s taking care of his ailing mother. He’s showing up for his kids. He’s going straight from work to home.
He’s keeping his nose clean.
Then one day he decides to give someone he knows from around the way a ride, and they’re stopped by the police.
He has a felony, his rider has a felony, but what the young man doesn’t know is, the rider has a gun.
The rider throws the gun in the car and flees.
The rider escapes. The young man doesn’t.
Now he’s facing 10 years for a poor decision made in a split second about something as trivial as a passenger.
You’d think his efforts to improve his situation would be taken into consideration, but that’s not how the machine works, especially for certain categories of prior offenses and for certain people. All the system sees is your prior. It was without compassion.
But, Jay Hurdle was compassionate.
The young man was without direction, the public defender seemed indifferent, overwhelmed by his case load, and the young man couldn’t really afford to pay for his own defense.
Of all the lawyers we reached out to, Jay Hurdle was the only one to return the call.
Not only that, he arranged to meet with the young man, freely sharing hours of precious billable time to a complete stranger from whom he had no hope of recouping it.
The young man was terrified and Jay Hurdle gave of his time and expertise to help him gain some sense of direction.
I don’t know Jay Hurdle well, but I know the effect he’s had on our community very well.
Of the community service organizations and non-profits I’ve worked with, I was constantly brushing up against his work, very often him having donated it.
It seems that whenever I hear about something good happening in our community, I hear his and his wife, Cate Van Halsema’s name.
They are remarkably human and have given themselves to the betterment of our community, including in that people who others would omit.
I share this experience with Jay Hurdle because probably no one else in the world knows he did it.
And, if he did this, how much more?
I didn’t know Jay Hurdle well, but I know this is who he is: a neighbor the kind that Jesus spoke of.
I was grieved to hear of his passing.
There’s a Celebration of Jay Hurdle’s Life happening at the upstairs of Restaurant Tyler at 5:30 PM today.
If you’ve felt the effect of his life, I encourage you to carry it and pass it along, especially to Cate Van Halsema and his loved ones during this incredibly difficult season.
He is a man #duehonor.
He made our community better.