Written by Williams (Bill) F. McIntosh:

This letter is for a very good friend of mine, and I don’t take the word friend lightly.
Seeing that I really don’t have any others. So this letter is to whomever it may
concern, and everyone else.

My name is Bill McIntosh and I have a story to tell. So please listen. I’m a 34 year
old male, average build, average height. Have a wife, been ten years now, and a
seven year old son. We ain’t well off by any means, and we three still have our
disagreements. But the bills get paid, and there’s food on the table everyday. And
at the end of the night we still tell each other “I love you,” no matter the
disagreement. I’ve recently started my own business, building custom furniture.
Haven’t sold anything yet, but I have a handful of pieces about ready for display.
Should be kicking off real soon. Really can’t complain, now can I? But I sometimes
still do. Residue of the programming I was taught growing up I suppose. Which is
the point of the story.

From a very young age (birth to be exact), I was programmed to be a failure. See,
even at birth the actions of people around me, and for that matter, the
people/persons not around me, had an effect. My dad, I learned he didn’t care
about me, (Why? I don’t know.) He left my mom 8 ½ months pregnant with me, and
she had a dad who died a month earlier. He pushed her (my mom) down a flight of
stairs and told her he was going on a fishing trip. He never came back. Heard he
went to Florida to produce smut movies. “Who cares?” Right? That’s what I learned
from my dad. I also learned my mom became an emotional wreck. Odd, me being a
newborn and her crying more than me. She’d cry when she woke in the morning, in
the afternoon, at night, whenever I’d cry and when she fed me. I think the
combination of my mom’s dad dying, my dad leaving her, and the fact that she didn’
t want me (Reasons being, my dad leaving her, and me not being a girl.) led us
down the path we took. She remarried shortly after.

Four months later, I think. She must have felt abandoned, vulnerable, unprotected.
Like I said, she had lost her dad, husband and had a newborn baby. So she clung
onto anyone who took notice. It ended up being this big, fat, dirty, mean guy. I
remember the guy couldn’t even clean himself completely. My mom had to get
areas he couldn’t reach. I knew this cause I was made to watch. Now I didn’t
remember this all from the beginning. She was with him a few years, and some of it
stuck with me. But who cares, right, dad? Besides I had a new dad, and mom wasn’t
crying no more. They even had a new baby, and this dad stuck around. I didn’t get
this, but I learned real quick that my new sister was his real daughter and I was
only my mother’s son. But he still paid attention to me. He’d scream and holler,
sometimes even hit me. My mom would make him take us kids to the park. In the
car he’d reach back and give me a good smack just to show he still cared. Left a
bruise a couple of times to show my mom how much he cared. He told her I fell off
the slide. I later learned my mom knew he was hitting me, and that when I was
younger, he was performing sexual acts with me. I also learned this to be
acceptable, normal. It had to be. I had a dad who showed me he hated me, and a
mom who approved.

About this point I was 5 and “Uncle” Butch came along. Now “Uncle” Butch was an
awesome guy. Really big and strong, made my mom laugh, took us places, and best
of all, he seemed to like me. He started spending more time around, but always
leaving before dad got home. Well, come to find out “Uncle” Butch wasn’t really
“Uncle” Butch, but the guy mom was cheating on dad with. She became pregnant
and there was a big scene between mom and dad. They hadn’t done anything in a
long time for this to occur. Dad beat mom up pretty good, mom kicked dad out and
Butch moved in. Dad didn’t like this and called dad outside. Dad was no match.
Butch pistol whipped him, and urinated on him while he was down. Dad was never
seen again, and Butch was the new dad. This is where my real learning and
programming began.

See Butch was a successful convict. He was into insurance scams, and burglaries.
He was good at it, too. I remember coming home from school and seeing VCRs and
stereos stacked from floor to the ceiling. Looking on my parent’s bed and seeing
jewelery and cash covering the blanket. It was so cool, I wanted to be just like him.
He had so many friends. These friends would come over and drink and smoke
marijuana. Do other drugs I wasn’t allowed to see. They’d all laugh and have fun
until everyone went home and then dad would become real mean to mom. I’d
sneak out of my bed and listen at their door. I’d hear him hitting her and her crying
for him to stop. I was so scared, sometimes I’d wet myself. So scared, I didn’t dare
help her. Remember, I said he was big and strong, and he had hit me once already.
Punched me in my chest. Hurt pretty bad, too. So, I’d go back to bed, wet pajamas
and all and cry myself to sleep, real softly mind you. Dad had a rule. Men don’t cry.
And if you were caught crying, you got something to cry about. But this was all
normal and besides, “who cares,” right, dad. Getting hit became a normal part of
life for me shortly after that.

Not saying that I didn’t deserve some of it. I was out doing some of what I learned.
Let’s see, I was hitting my sisters, fighting in school, stealing, drinking and
smoking a pack of butts a day by the time I was 7. At age 9 I was sent to a boys’
home. My mom had abandoned me. Visits and phone calls became less, home
furloughs were taken away because my dad had shot himself with a rifle while I was
in front of him. I started to really hate my mother. Not only for the abandonment but
for not caring what went on with her son in the boys’ home. The physical abuse,
mental and sexual. We had it all. Details really not really needed. I ended up getting
kicked out of the boys’ home shortly after twelve. They only harbor children up
until they turn twelve. I got to stay a little longer. My case was special. It wasn’t that
I wasn’t ready to go home, I was. I completed everything they had to help me.
Including fornication with staff. It was the home that wasn’t ready for me.

Reluctantly, the state allowed me to go home. Six months later I was admitted to
Jackson Brook because of a suicide attempt. It wasn’t a suicide attempt, it was a
stupid dare with classmates on a fieldtrip. It was an excuse for my mother to get rid
of me because my dad didn’t want me around. I don’t know why! I was turning out
just like him. Maybe it was I messed up the balance. My mom had my sister from her
previous marriage as her favorite, and my dad had his daughter from this marriage
as his favorite, and my real dad, well, he just didn’t care. So they got their happy
family, and I’m in the nuthouse getting EKGs and shots of valium up the butt in the
padded room so they could figure out what was wrong with me. I wasn’t crazy, I was
confused, mad, and maybe a little scared. Though I wouldn’t admit to that one. I don’
t need wires on my head or drugs in my system to figure out what’s wrong. I just
need someone to listen. No one does. I was released, no conclusions on my mental
stability. No shit! Nobody listened. Put these blocks together, what do you see in
the picture? Who’s the President? Always these questions, but no one hearing.

I went home one more time. Actually hung out for awhile. Went back to school and
got a part-time job working with my dad, who was a manager at a fish plant on the
wharf. He took the job with an ulterior motive. He planned a faked back injury and
collected insurance money. I got fired. Guilty by association. Was still in school, but
no job. With no job came no money. I was still too young for a job permit, and I liked
money. So I took my few life skills I had learned and set out to make money. I wasn’t
good at acting, so I opted for burglaries. Shortly after fourteen, I left home (tired of
the bullshit) and continued my career. My career was halted within 6 months when I
was caught for a house burglary, and a chain of car burglaries. Spent 90 credits or
roughly 9 months in the Youth Center. Was released and continued my path of self-
failure. In and out of the Youth Center two more times, graduated to the county
(Cumberland County Jail) and finally prison (Maine State). Two trips there wasn’t
enough. It took the third (Worst and best by far). I got a seven and a half year
sentence for burglary.

Got a girlfriend of two years, three months pregnant with my son. I was twenty-six
and had left a path of chaos behind me. I’d set out to be a failure and succeeded.
None of the blame was mine, mind you, but something was definitely wrong and I
knew it. So I set out to figure it out. I had plenty of time to figure it out – I took
every program that became available to me, took all the job tracks to learn a skill.
And, honestly, most of it was bullshit. Some of it had purpose, but most of it was
out of books. Then in 2004 a new program became available. It was New Horizons
and they wanted 25 participants. I signed up and was accepted. My first class we
were introduced to a gentleman wearing a pair of overalls and a blue blazer. “Here
we go,” I thought. But I remember three of the first things he said. “1. Hello, my
name is Bill Cumming. 2. If I start to fall, let me. My leg is made of mostly chicken
wire.” And. “3. I want to ask you not to believe anything I tell you.” This caught my
interest. If I’m not to believe this guy, then why am I taking this class.

For the next few weeks we all met once a week for a few hours, and at the end of
each session, we would get a silly homework assignment. Something like look at
yourself in the mirror for a couple of minutes or self reflect. In prison this is a little
hard. To look silly or weak is not what you want. But I found a way and time to do it.
Not really knowing what I was reflecting on. But found the more I did it, the more I
learned about myself and others. Or rather not so much about others as I learned
that the emotions and feelings others have, are just that. Their feelings and
emotions. Now if these people are allowed to have their own feelings, then so can
I. Therefore, I’m allowed to make my own decisions and choices of who I want to
be. This started a new direction for me.

I didn’t speak with Bill after the program until I was released. He asked me what I
wanted to do. What was gonna make my life complete? I gave him my spiel. Told
him of past history. Obligations, Responsibilities. He asked me what I knew how to
do, what I liked to do, what made me happy? I told him I liked to work with my
hands, that I had been involved with the wood working program at the prison and
became pretty good at it. He informed me of a program called the Starfish Fund.
And that it was to help individuals pursue their goals. I jumped on the opportunity. I
was given a chance. Someone listened.

And now here I am. Like I said in the beginning, a husband, a dad who is here,
helping with my share of responsibilities. I take pride in the things I do and in
myself. Happy with where my business is headed and have a new direction in life. I
don’t completely know what will happen. But for now, I am complete. And as for
what one person can do -- well, it’s a whole lot more than what a bunch of people
who want to do nothing can do.
In his own words...
The Starfish Fund
P.O. Box 304
Litchfield, ME 04350
T: 207-
582-2405
E:
info@thestarfishfund.com
www.thestarfishfund.com
"So others might
understand his
achievements more
clearly, I asked Bill
M. to write his
experience in
relation to the New
Horizons Academy,
What One Person
Can Do and The
Starfish Fund. I have
edited it only for
clarity of meaning.

It is my hope that it
will allow you to
know what I mean
when I speak of the
power that resides
within all people. In
my experience, each
of Bill’s days is a
tribute to that power.

As of the middle of
May, 2007, Bill has
been accepted to
show his work at
Chilton’s, the
premier showcase
for Maine
craftspeople.

With luck, it should
insure his future."

Bill Cumming