(Presented at the Protestant All-Faith worship service)
They say that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I tutor for the GED program and on several occasions my students have introduced me to their people in the visiting room as “the guy who’s helping them get their GED.” Now I’m proud of that because they recognize that I want them to succeed, but that is nothing compared to what happened to me recently.
I’ve been walking the yard with a guy who introduces me to his home boys as “the guy who helped him get through the death of his mother.” We used to lock together in the same cube over on the east side of the prison and he knows that I’m a Christian. Not because I preach at him but because I lived my Christianity in front of him. And when his mother died I made myself available to him immediately. I didn’t have to say much, but rather walked the yard in silence with him and listened, like Job’s friends who were of the most comfort when they sat and mourned with him in silence.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16 that we are to be salt and light. We are going to have an impact on those around us when we make ourselves available and show others that same love of God that we ourselves have experienced. Francis of Assisi said that “we are to preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” Our actions really do speak louder than words. My friend is not a Christian yet, but I’ve sown seeds into his life that one day may bear fruit. I take every opportunity I can to encourage him, watering the seed and trusting in the Lord of the harvest.
Update November 2019: I’m still in contact with my friend. We are both trying to put our prison experience behind us and move on with our lives. We are both off parole now and have successfully transitioned back into society. We are both working and have family obligations. The first time we met in the free world we hugged, drank coffee and spoke for several hours. He shared with me that during our time in prison I was responsible for helping him keep his cool on several occasions when his emotions were running high which kept him from busting several guys heads who were getting under his skin. He’s a big guy who can hold his own but a fighting ticket would have cost him his parole, elevated his detention level and would have sent his life in a totally different direction. He told me about his experience going to his mother’s grave site the first time after he got out, eight months after her passing. His mother was a believer and he is convinced that she is looking down from heaven and watching over him. At the end of our get together I gave him my pastor’s business card and told him that if he ever needed to talk to a clergyman, I highly recommended this guy. (I’ve quoted his opening sermon stories several times in my news letters.)
Before I went to prison I had difficulty expressing empathy, situations involving death made me uncomfortable and I was always at a loss for words. In a place where men purposefully toughen their hearts and shedding tears is a sign of weakness God worked in me to soften my heart, gave me peace in the midst of the storm, and loosened my tongue and my pen.