Jackson was released from jail this week after 25 years of what was to be a life sentence for a crime he apparently did not commit.

He lives in one of the few states that allowed non-unanimous jury convictions. That allowance was originally designed to circumvent the power of any potential Black juror.

Jackson was convicted on circumstantial evidence, even though there was proof he was not present at the scene of the crime. The testimony used to convict him was provided by a man who changed his story three times – and who finally gave the damning testimony in exchange for a shorter sentence for himself.

Aside from his mentioning all the electronics changes in the world, what struck me while listening to Jackson’s interview was his comment about how grateful he was to be with his mother, who had been supportive of him all these years.  He expressed his lack of anger or resentment, and his repeated gratitude for being with loved ones

Jackson commented on the difference between joy and happiness, which is what I most want to mention today.

To Jackson, happiness is a response to obtaining something or having something, or seeing something completed.

Joy, he believes, is a quality that’s not dependent on anything happening outside of the self. It is an inner state of being.

I can only say I was amazed listening to this man. To so many of us, he would have strong grounds for anger, resentment and mistrust.

Not only was he not focused on those negative emotions, but he had something to teach us all on that broadcast; joy is not dependent on outer happenings.

Humbled, I thought if this man can feel joy, surely I can aspire more consistently in that direction and perhaps so can we all.

Shabbat Shalom


Rabbi Biller