Did It Change Me?

Most of the time, I don’t know the last names of the men with home I share a bible study fellowship at the local prison. If a person could read the washed out/worn off numbers that appear on their clothing and remember six digits at a time, one could look them up online. We volunteers are not told anything about them and we  – usually – only learn more from the prisoner himself if he chooses to share that information with us.

Recently, my curiosity got the better of me. Each week, names are passed around for all to keep in prayer throughout the week. Online, I looked up a few by name – and got results.

Now I KNOW why some men are there. It has taken the mystery out of it for me…but it has also left me disappointed. I don’t know exactly what offense I was hoping to find, but I found offenses that saddened me.

So, am I a different person now that I know something about some of them? I have an insight I didn’t have, if that makes me a different person. Does it make me more or less fearful of any of them? No. Does it make me more cautious? Perhaps.

I would still love to be able to talk with each and every one to learn their stories. What was childhood like? Do they have families now? What kind of life did they have before they came to prison? What caused them to be sent to prison? What influenced them? Who influenced them? Since these men are in Level I, they can see an end in sight. When they are released, what direction will their lives take? Unfortunately, there is never time for lengthy conversations – even if all that information was shared.

Instead, knowing what I now know, I will pray more directly for those about whom I know a little more. I will look at them, I hope, with greater understanding. I hope and pray that I am not judgmental. I strongly believe that people can and do change. The bottom line is that we all are human. We all make mistakes in life. I will pray that God guides us all…no matter what we have done, or what we will do in the future…and that He accepts us all into a better life with Him when this life is done. I continue to feel privileged to be able to share time with these men weekly. They lift my spirits and they humble me.

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The Prisoner's Prayer Book

Louise is author of The Prisoner's Prayer Book which evolved as she became a volunteer in prison ministry. Retired from a career in social services, Louise resides in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

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