Last Thursday, I arrived at the county jail to a swarm of busy-ness. I have two classes each Thursday and in the five years that I have been coming and going, I had never seen such activity. The day before our local drug task force had captured and arrested thirty-three men and women involved in the illegal purchase and sale of narcotics. There are still seven under investigation.
When I got home later that day, I looked on my Facebook feed ( which I have a love/hate relationship with) to see various posts of celebration from folks in my county on the arrests of all of those "low lives".
Some of the comments included sentiments such as "proud to be from a county that locks those thugs away" or "justice is served" or even "so happy that that trash is off our streets".
I found myself growing angry with these people who had made the statements. I had to sit in quiet with God to figure out the source of my anger and this is what I came up with:
I do think that it is good that we stop the illegal sale of drugs. I think it's good that these folks receive a consequence for their action. But, the lynch mob mentality towards those arrested was quite disturbing.
Each person arrested is a son or daughter. Each person arrested is a child of God. I understand that it is a good thing to discover who is selling them and to stop that person but make no mistake, there will probably be another one there in short order to fill his spot or like the bad disease that addiction is, that drug ring will morph in a new way until the authorities have time to catch up to them.
And then there is this: I have started working on a new mentorship program there at the jail and I have been asked to work with a lady who gets out near the end of September. I met her last week for the first time.
We discussed her needs. She has no home to go back to, no clothing once out, no job, no family support, no education to speak of, her only ID is a revoked drivers license and she is scared to death. She has written to every recovery house in our area to try to secure housing but inside jail she can only communicate by mail and on occasion by phone. The recovery houses have asked her to contact them by phone. On her few opportunities to phone, she gets a voice mailbox.
I'm going to call this lady Maggie. Maggie filled out our form which assesses need. She has held a job for as long as seven years at a time. She has survived the addiction of her first family, physical, emotional and sexual abuse the best way that she knew how. Even though at one time she was suicidal, she now feels like she is ready to try living again.
Sitting face to face with this woman taught me a lot about myself. It was hard at first to look beyond the tattoos and missing teeth. It was hard to look at the un-kept hygiene of someone who was about an inch away from giving up again. But then I thought of my mentor ( at least in my mind) who is Mother Teresa. What would she do?
If you follow her, you know. I looked deeply into Maggie's eyes. I kept my gaze there. Jesus was there and as soon as I reminded myself of that fact, I stopped noticing the evidence of a hard life. Maggie was weak and soft. She is a heart crying out to find something that she has never had .....love.
We talked for the two hours that our class lasted. Towards the end I asked about whether or not she had a felony. It is a lot more difficult to secure a job if you have a felony.
"Yes" she said.
Was it violent? I asked. Another hurdle for finding a job.
"Yes, she said. I was so high on pills that I stabbed my husband."
"Is he okay" I asked.
"Oh yes, it was superficial. He's in here now."
Here I am sitting with a lady who stabbed her husband. And, because we sat face to face and I was able to look beyond the label of 'assault with a deadly weapon', I understand very clearly that I have no right to judge.
Am I naïve about her chances of reoffending?
Do I believe that simply locking people up and getting them off the streets for a certain period of time will work or even make our society better?
But, then I think about my mentor. Sometimes, when she found the dying in the streets, she only had the time to hold them in her arms and stay with them as they died, gazing into the eyes of Jesus. She might have taken them back to her Home for the Dying and bathed and fed them knowing that in the end it would not save their life. But, her goal was only to love and serve.
And so, for me, that will be my goal. For whatever period of time that I have with them, I will gaze into the eyes of Jesus....offering the love that is freely given to me in spite of my offenses. I will leave the final results in the hands of God.
That is the lesson that I wish that I could convey to those who made those comments. But, then again, you have to be ready to receive the message.
Funny thing is this: It took addiction to open my heart to receive enough so that I could give it away.
Praying for us all.