As we go about our lives from day to day, hurrying to the grocery, to school to pick up a child, to the doctors office, by the bank, the post office and a million other errands we have to run daily we have no time to think about others who would swap places with us in a hurry.

Have you ever thought about the human side of those who have been incarcerated.  They are individuals just like us, many of them with heartbreaking pasts.  All of them have feelings. Again, just like us.  Can you imagine their thoughts as they sit there locked behind bars contemplating their lives so far, wondering what the future holds for them and having no idea where they are going when they are released.  I’ve been there with them and seen them heartbroken, crying about their children, the parent that had died while they were locked up asking me to please pray for them.  Many times when I started to leave one of them would hand me a piece of paper with their prayer requests on it.  Sometimes I would be so upset when I left there worried about them all the next week and then it was time to go again.
There is a lot more to these human beings than the face you saw splashed across your TV screen or the front page of the newspaper or their name in the arrest column.  Every person in a jail or prison is some mother’s child, some woman’s husband, some child’s father or mother, a hurting human being.  There is an old saying that says, in essence, “don’t criticize me until you have walked a mile in my shoes.”  Except for the Grace of God it could be any one of us or our children.
“Jailbird,” “ex-con,” “convict” though different words they all bring the same image to mind for a lot of people:  “sorry, no good, never be worth nothing.”  They might be worth something if they had half the chance most of us have had.  Many of these women have become precious to us over the years.
So many times I have felt some of these women, not all, should be in re-hab instead of jail.  Some of the others, I believe, nothing will make a difference.  They are allowed to go to re-hab only to run away and be on the run with an alias.  Some are excellent at conning you out of your house and home.  I know for I have always been a soft touch for the hurting and some can cry on the drop of a dime.  Sometimes I trusted the belligerent ones sooner than some of the others.  The meanest sometimes are the ones hurting the most.  They are the ones you can not hurt any more.  There is nothing left to hurt.  It has all been taken away by someone long before we appeared on the scene.  I have bought clothes, books, Bibles, shoes, socks, toiletries for rehab.  Many times it was appreciated, other times not even a thank you.  Give one of them a job and they will steal from you.  This is to say not all people who are incarcerated would make a better life if on the outside.  The ones that have some kind of foundation to work with will work with you, many times, and appreciate anything you do for them but not all.  The “all” are the ones who discourage you sometimes.
In my old age it would be hard to sit on a concrete bench without a back for two hours but if my health permitted I would love to tell them there is a better way if they will only believe.  First thing they have to believe is that God can take them out of that place, lift them up from the trash some of them have lived in all their lives.  The time to think about it is before they get themselves in jail.  Now is the time to make a choice for the rest of their lives.  It is so much easier to change before you go to jail than come out an ex-convict but it can be done.  The one word that stands between them and addict or alcoholic is “choice.”  It is their choice and only theirs.  They, many times, want to blame someone else but they have to be strong enough to rise above anything that gets in their way.  That is something hard to make a young person believe. When you ask them “what do you plan to be doing five years from now?  Do you plan to make a jail your forever home? Do you want a good life or do you just want to wander around half drunk and not caring or do you want to straighten your life up and make something of yourself?” Sometimes this makes them stop and think about it for the first time.  I found these were the magic words sometimes.
Young people if any of you are reading this, listen to me.  You have two important choices.  Live or die.  You can quit drugs and live a good life or you can do drugs until one day you will make a mistake and people will be looking down at you in your coffin feeling sorry for you yet knowing you did it to yourselves.
If you truly want to get into recovery you need to start at Celebrate Recovery where you will meet people with your same goal.  Where you will find those who want to hold you up instead of putting a foot on your head and pushing you further under.
The choice is yours.

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