I’m blessed with people who reach out to me.
My wife helps in many ways like researching the medications I’m on. She also drives 400 miles one way every month to spend two days visitation with me. Three of my adult children have been in to visit me. Two of them are in the medical profession and help me with medication questions as well. My sister has come a bit farther to visit twice and does the work for this blog. My mother has also been in to visit and writes me weekly. I also have family that send letters, email, and books and put money on my commissary account.
Beyond family, I have friends who send in letters and email. One couple sends in unique yard sale book finds. These same friends even banded together to get me two magazine subscriptions. I also have a psychologist outside who is working with me by letter and charges me nothing.
As I said, I am blessed. They all reach out to me while I reside in this physical prison. They do so regardless of the situation they themselves live within. And they also have one thing in common: They live Proverbs 3:27-28
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” – when you now have it with you.” (NIV)
I do my best to have a continuing presence in their lives as well by reciprocating with letters, email, and the occasional phone call. I send what advice and wisdom I can to my children. I share in what decision I can where my wife’s responsibilities allow.
Yet I wanted to do more. I wanted to be a true liver of Proverbs 3:27-28. But how to reach out in prison – in exile? And to whom?
I have to admit I had fears around reaching out: would I be rejected or taken advantage of? Yet I kept thinking of those who were actively reaching out to me. If they were brave enough to do it why shouldn’t I be?
I began to look around for ways to become more than a friend to a few fellow inmates.
I found out that there are classes that are inmate lead on a wide variety of topics; everything from the stock market to paranormal activities. I thought, “I can teach a class,” and then asked myself, “What will I teach?” My education and background are in engineering so I’m good in math and science but putting together a course in my field didn’t feel ‘right’. So I turned to the friends I’ve made here for ideas and two suggested I teach public speaking. My initial reaction was to brush off the idea but the longer I thought about it the more I liked the idea. So with help from my sister in the form of a college level public speaking textbook I put together a class and am now teaching it. And it’s going well.
Several other inmates suggested I tutor those pursuing their GED in math. I liked the idea so I passed my name around to people enrolled in the GED program. Within days I had two people to tutor. And it’s going well.
Then I thought about the poor that Jesus asked us to help. I looked around and saw how many indigent inmates there are and I knew I couldn’t help them all but I also knew I could help a few. So each month I take the $17 I make at my ‘job’ here and buy hygiene products from commissary for two or three indigent inmates. Seeing their appreciation in receiving soap, shampoo, and deodorant is so satisfying that it makes me wish I could do more.
Not surprisingly, I find that living Proverbs 3:27-28 is rewarding and reaffirming that I have something to give back. It also helps me to see that I can atone for the sins that sent me here into exile. It’s given me a new Joy In The Tribulation.
You too can find a Joy In The Tribulation regardless of your situation
All you have to do is reach out.