The most remarkable part of being locked up is not the lack of remorse and compassion from these prisoners, but the level of humanness of these so called hardened criminals.
A man came to me the other day because, he said, I was a father and he didn’t know what to do about his family. They still didn’t know he was in jail where he’s been for two months. He was brimming with tears over the mess he found himself in when he was arrested.
Mostly, I get to help men understand the complexities of the legal system. Something just about everyone in jail has a very hard time with, but on those all too many occasions when God sends someone my way who needs a pat on the shoulder, a kind word, or even some affirmation that this event does not define who they are and that they mustn’t let it consume them, I am thankful I was the one who God allowed to be there for them. Even here, imprisoned.
Families these days take on so many different forms and this one was no exception. He’s not with his son’s Mom anymore in the conventional sense, but her other kids call him Dad too and he has been active in their lives as well. This man had been away for two months and hadn’t spoken to or written his family because of the tremendous amount of shame and self depreciation he was dealing with. Though we live in a world of technology and information at our fingertips, he was hoping to find some solace and encouragement to reach out to the only people on earth who even cared if he was seen, ever, and let them know where he is; the Mom at least, the kids, of course, require some diplomacy and a delicate balance between total disclosure and compassionate honesty. I knew his struggle all too well.
I’m still trying to help him make sense of the legal system, but two days later he told me he got out not just one letter, but four: one to the mother of his child and one each to his child and her two others from previous engagements. While he described the tremendous weight that he felt had been lifted from his shoulders, the tears welled in my eyes this time. There hasn’t been an answer yet and I pray that whatever the answer that comes is one he can pull enough strength from to know how important it is that we humans not just be there, but we reach out to the family we have in the eyes of God.
That family includes the entire human race.