The 16-year old son of our neighbors had gotten himself into trouble by getting drunk and breaking the window of a local shop. The U.N. police had picked him up and put him in jail, and his mother came to us to ask if we could help him. We heard that even though he was a Serb, he was going to be soon transferred to the large Albanian prison that was for more hardened adult criminals. Surely this would not be good for him.
Because the U.N. was overseeing the reconstruction of Kosovo, the current director of the prison system was a Finnish lady who had been appointed by the U.N. She had become our friend previously when we were doing prison programs in various locations, so I went to meet with her and explained to her that we were friends of the family of this young man who had made a stupid mistake and was now in jeopardy of having his life ruined by being sent to that prison. She was sympathetic and said she would look into it and hopefully get him released soon. I had a thin, inspirational book with me that talked about how obstacles in life are to be overcome like an athlete jumping over hurdles, and asked if I could get it to the boy. She said yes, as long as it was not political or pornographic, and delivered it to him herself.
It took a few days before his release could be arranged, but both he and his family were so thankful for our help. We heard from him afterwards that he had read that thin book several times, and that it had changed his life. He was sharing a cell with other boys, and they each began begging the book off of him, so they could read it for themselves. This boy’s life did change, and he is now grown, married, and has two beautiful children and a good job in Belgrade.