Sunday, January 25, 2015

Turning a frown into a smile

I remembered her face and her frown.

This prisoner wasn’t touched by any of our songs or any of our words when HFP’s musical group SWEET FREEDOM presented a gospel concert at the Michigan prison for women.  I was playing keyboard, facing the audience, so my eyes kept getting drawn to this one person who obviously wasn’t having a good time.  Perhaps she had come with a friend, just as a favor.  She remained for the entire program but she didn’t seem to like it.

That was last June, and I had completely forgotten about her until yesterday.

Board Chairman Dan Rooks and I were in the same auditorium in the same prison, as guest speakers for a public assembly sponsored by the local chapter of the National Lifers Association.  I spoke first.

I so enjoy meeting with the women at this prison, because it’s a love affair, in the honorable sense of the word.  HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS loves and works hard for these women, and they are most grateful for our compassion and assistance.

The same girl, with the same frown, was in the very same seat.  As I discussed our successes and our failures, our services and our goals, it was just like the concert.  Nothing phased her.

Then it was Dan’s turn.  A clinical psychologist, Dan’s presentation style is in stark contrast to my effervescence.  I’m sure it resembles his quiet, confident manner in a personal counseling session.  He chose the life and the problems of a patient as his primary example.  The parallels became obvious in a hurry.  The woman had made bad decision after bad decision, and by the time she came to Dan her life was a disaster, and so was her self-esteem.

As he calmly explained what negative feelings and actions had to be abandoned, what positive feelings and actions can do to turn a life around and restore self-esteem, the girl with the frown sat up and took notice.  As he discussed handling feelings in time of grief and anger, quoting from excellent resource material, Miss Frowning Face leaned forward, obviously eager to catch the next word.

Dan’s message was one of hope.  His example of the disciple who betrayed Jesus seemed to resonate.  Jesus was not only Peter’s Lord, but his best friend, and yet in a sad moment, he made a bad decision.  But when his eyes connected with Jesus following the three incidents, Peter saw not only hurt, but love and compassion.  This powerful servant of our Lord was not only forgiven, but went on to become the founder of the Christian church.

The young woman was now swiping tears from her cheeks.

In the Q&A session that followed, her hand was the first up, admitting that she was moved by Dan’s presentation and asking if copies of his resource material, especially dealing with grief,  were available.  And her opinion about me and HFP had also taken a turn:  “How can my family support your organization,” she asked.

My simple point:  God didn’t use our fine gospel music or my up-beat HFP presentation to touch a life.  He used Dr. Dan to hold up a mirror, and let this troubled young woman see her own reflection. 

It was just one highlight of a beautiful session with beautiful friends.

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