Last summer I got the strangest letter in the mail. Even stranger, it was delivered ON MY BIRTHDAY, along with cards from my family. The letter was from an “Inmate of Broward Correctional Facility.”

Of course, the letter was intended to go to the people who handle child support, but I'm not in the habit of checking to see who my mail is addressed to (or postmarked from—although next time I would recommend a large graphic of a jail cell on the back flap if they really want to get the point across), so I didn't realize it wasn't for me until I saw the handwritten letter inside. Basically, it was a plea from an inmate who wanted to pay child support and establish visitation with his son. And he sounded confident in his rights.

Now, this was the first and only time I've ever received mail from an inmate. Fortunately, all those inmates I promised to help get out of jail and then never gave a second thought to upon my release haven't come knocking down my door. But this letter got me feeling genuinely hopeful that the $72.50/day (actual taxpayer figure) spent on our nation's locked up fathers might actually be doing some good.

Take your average child support problem for instance:

Woman tracks down free man (as in innocent, although most men will also have sex for free) she had sex with and tells him she's pregnant. He vehemently denies being the father, scared to death of the thought of child support. She then orders him to take a paternity test, the two go on Maury Povich, scream at each other for 15 minutes about who cheated on who, and then Maury comes out and reveals that indeed, the bitch wasn't lying: he IS the father (despite the fact that she did have sex with his best friend a week prior to him). The devastated dude then swears that he'll love and take care of his newly discovered unborn child, the Maury crowd claps while every trailer trash-looking woman in the crowd nods “that's RIGHT mothafucka, you BETTA take care of that kid,” then everyone leaves and it's 5 years before the woman is able to squeeze a hundred dollars out of the guy, who hasn't even met his 4-year-old son yet.

Now, let's look at the child support problem we have at Broward Correctional Institution:

Incarcerated man attempts to track down free woman (as in innocent, although he may have paid to have sex with her) he had sex with to tell her he most certainly IS the father, despite what she might think. He orders his own paternity test and turns himself in to the Child Support Collection People of his own accord (this, in stark contrast to the time when he tried to elude capture by the police, eventually acknowledging defeat after a 7-hour hostile standoff). The devastated man feels just as guilty about his moral crime (neglecting his son's care) as he does about his physical crime (assaulting a woman with a handgun in an abandoned Sears parking lot), so he demands that in addition to paying full child support, he will also begin regular visitation with his son, who up to this point just thought dad “died when he fell off a ladder before you were even born honey, trying to hang Christmas lights from the gutter.”

So here's to you, INMATE NUMBER 23518455 (REPRESENT!), a rare man who somehow has produced so many plastic bags, processed so much meat, and provided tender loving care to so many dogs (source: actual jobs at Broward Correction Facility) at 43¢ an hour that he is now able to financially and emotionally support his son. You're doing so much with so little! You are a true testament to the fact that none of us are working as hard as we could be, and that minimum wage is just not low enough yet in America. If only there were more dads like you, we could all watch more Oprah and less Maury.

In honor of your nobility, I've resealed your letter and forwarded it to the correct address:

Santa Claus
P.O. Box 56099
North Pole, Alaska 99705-1099