A reader took me to task recently for suggesting that a dying inmate should have been released to spend his remaining days at home. She checked his arrest record, and based on his checkered past, it was her decision that the state did exactly the right thing by keeping him behind bars for his last breath.
I respect her comments and position. I have never written editorials in an effort to convince readers or listeners that I am right. My goal has always been to stimulate discussion on a particular topic.
I think it’s important, then, in response to the reader’s observations, that I explain once again, our philosophy for helping Michigan inmates. I found it interesting that she checked his “rap sheet.” That’s something we just don’t do. The crimes they’ve committed and their sorry track records have nothing to do with the quality or depth of our help and compassion.
There’s a good reason why I call this “Jesus work.” Our Lord was notorious for showing kindness to tax collectors, lepers, adulterers and the like. Said Pastor Randy Hyde, of Little Rock, Arkansas: “…if he saw people who had need of what he uniquely was able to offer, he gravitated toward them and they toward him. In fact, he was quite careless about the company he kept. Why, he just threw his mercy and his grace around as if he had an unlimited supply of it. And the Pharisees and the scribes didn’t like it.”
Father Greg Boyle pretty much summarizes our thoughts on people behind bars:
“I’ve never met an ‘evil person,’ ‘cause the minute you start to know what people carry, it breaks through and you stand in awe at what folks have to carry rather than in judgment of how they carry it.”
So, that’s our attitude here. We offer kindness and compassion to all, no questions asked.
After all, says Pastor Hyde, “If we want to keep company with Jesus, we might just have to re-think our daily agenda and go where he goes, do what he does, love those he loves.”
When we moved into our new quarters, we had quite an internal debate among our team as to what quote should be painted on the wall of the HFP conference room. Matt and I settled on this, from Father Boyle:
You stand with the belligerent, the surly and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.