August 23 is Lloyd Pendleton’s birthday. Noted as one of Utah’s premiere champions of populations most of us never see, he is probably best remembered by America for his interview, The Homeless Homed, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Jan. 7, 2015.
He had the ability to take difficult social issues and address them with heart – and ofttimes humor – in such a way that people from a variety of socio-economic opinions “came to the table” to discuss possible solutions. He energized them in a way that things got done.
Lloyd Pendleton would have been 79 years old this year. We lost him March 3.
My husband, Randy, and I are indebted to Lloyd not only for helping develop deep and on-going relationships with people who are often invisible to the rest of us, but for helping us heal from a personal family tragedy. He didn’t even know it at the time.
The first day of my husband’s retirement, in June 2013, he texted and asked Randy if he had a charity or social cause he wanted to dedicate his new found time to. He gave us a suggestion and met with us a few days later to introduce us to people who would become like family to us.
My younger brother, my best friend, became an addict late in life. He was arrested. Horrified by the accounts of others serving lengthy sentences in federal prison, he took his life. It crippled our family, rippling out among extended family and even friends we hadn’t seen for decades. Despite wonderful personal support, private counseling and an amazing suicide support group at the University of Utah, I was broken beyond repair.
Lloyd had no idea we were going through this when he contacted us. The gift he gave us was GOGI, “Getting Out by Going Inward: A Positive Decision-Making Guide” for incarcerated individuals. The invitation Lloyd offered us was to teach this non-denominational lifestyle to inmates at the Utah State Prison. Really? Wasn’t I already bruised enough?
I thought I’d pass, but the idea of having a cause to get out of bed for was enticing. I went to the prison thinking I was going to give them everything I had because I could no longer give it to my brother; I was going to ease their pain; I would have the impact on people that I knew my brother would have had if he had had the courage to do his time. In essence, I would serve his time.
About three weeks into the program, one night I found myself bolting out the door and onto the deck of the portable classroom where we were participating/training with about 25 female inmates. Choking sobs made it nearly impossible to breathe. My knuckles were white as I gripped the railing and worked frantically to get air into my lungs.
The prison yard was surprisingly empty. I felt alone, lost and confused. How could I have been so wrong? I had not come here to “save” these women. I had come here for them to “save” me; to heal me.
With tears streaming down my cheeks and splashing onto the railing, I wept – sobbed – in pain and gratitude at finding exactly what I needed to heal my brokenness. A solution that only Lloyd Pendleton had access to and shared with me.
Lloyd inspired me in ways I never expected. He loved my husband and me in ways that the three of us could never have had the foresight to predict.
September 8-14 is Suicide Prevention Week. It’s a difficult, yet hopeful week for our family. And I always remember to offer a prayer of thanks for Utah’s “Champion of the Down Trodden,” Lloyd Sharp Pendleton, and for his belief that, in a line from his obituary, “one person can make a difference, serving others is a privilege, and all people are his brothers and sisters.”
Jan Hopkins, Farmington, is a semi-retired free lance journalist, a reading tutor in inner city schools, a mentor at the Utah State Prison, a founding board member of a refugee services coalition and a former volunteer with the Detroit Interfaith Leadership Council.