StoryCorps: In Prison And Outside, He Found His 'Iota Of Light': A Mentor Named Fred "What is life without hope? Even an iota of light can go a long way," says Robert Sanchez, a social worker who served 15 years in prison. He found that guiding light when he met minister Fred Davie.
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In Prison And Outside, He Found His 'Iota Of Light': A Mentor Named Fred

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In Prison And Outside, He Found His 'Iota Of Light': A Mentor Named Fred

In Prison And Outside, He Found His 'Iota Of Light': A Mentor Named Fred

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And it's Friday morning. Time again for StoryCorps. And today, we hear from a social worker who helps people coming out of prison. Robert Sanchez knows what they're going through because he's been there himself. He's served 15 years on a drug charge at Sing Sing in New York. At StoryCorps, Sanchez has been thanking people who helped him after his release, including Fred Davie, a Presbyterian minister he met in a theology class.

ROBERT SANCHEZ: We met at Sing Sing in this small, windowless room...

FRED DAVIE: Yeah, exactly.

SANCHEZ: ...Which didn't look like much of a educational setting.

DAVIE: (Laughter) I know.

SANCHEZ: But that room created magic. I think it was 16 men. Most of us were there for about 15-20 years.

DAVIE: I remember being impressed at how well-read you guys were.

SANCHEZ: Fred, we didn't have much else to do.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIE: I remember that you said you had no arrests prior, nothing in your system and nothing on you. And you got 15 years to life for a nonviolent drug charge. But I thought he's making that up.

SANCHEZ: It can't be possible.

DAVIE: (Laughter) It can't be possible, right.

SANCHEZ: I think I survived it by always having hope. What is life without hope? Even an iota of light can go a long way. And my first impression of you was here's this beautiful, kind man who, for whatever reason, just represents hope to me.

DAVIE: All these years, I never knew this had that much impact on you.

SANCHEZ: Oh, it did, Fred, it did. I've been home for 16 years now. When I came home, I was so afraid. But I knew that I can pick up the phone and tell you, Fred, I don't get this [expletive].

DAVIE: (Laughter) Right.

SANCHEZ: I could just ask the dumbest questions ever, but you never told me they were dumb.

DAVIE: For me, I had people in my corner every step of the way. My dad wasn't there. But if things messed up, no matter where I was, I could always go to my mother's front porch and know that I was welcome.

SANCHEZ: I have that from you, but I didn't have that from anywhere else. So, you know, it's weird because I'm not your son.

DAVIE: Right (laughter).

SANCHEZ: But, you know, I didn't grow up with a father neither. My father died from an overdose. So I saw you as - like, if I had a dad, if I had somebody that was going to guide me, that was you.

DAVIE: Wow. Thank you. Most folks who've been through what you've been through don't get this far.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. I got to be reminded every now and then. There are times when I get bitter and angry at my situation. I live a pretty lonely life, and if I'm not careful, I can fall into these doldrums. But just you being there to be able to listen to me and say, you know what, you're going to be OK, it's a tremendous gift, and I'm a lucky man.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Robert Sanchez and Fred Davie at StoryCorps in New York. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress and is featured on the StoryCorps podcast.

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