Reflection: Passing the Love at the Margins
A Reflection from Eleanor Arnold
Twenty miles separate our home in Wilton from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. I have traveled that route more than 200 times, picking up kids, visiting moms, touring, attending programs. Every time I am there, I am reminded of a sermon I once heard at St. Matthews. A visiting Episcopal priest, dedicated to mission work, described the individual stories of several people who lived on society’s fringes – a homeless veteran, a serial addict, and a recently released parolee. After each of their deeply personal stories, he said, “this is a person for whom Jesus died.”
The stories of the mothers incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional are varied and compelling. Their children, of course, are innocent victims, whose lives are forever altered. For 15 years, during the summer and throughout the year, our family has been hosting children whose mothers are in that facility.
These were some of the things that were said at our house this year:
Who lives in all of these rooms? Is this a mansion?
My Mom will be out when I am 18 or 20.
How does the dishwasher work? Do you just lay the bowl in?
My Dad got out of jail but had to go back in because he couldn’t find a job and it was hard taking care of me.
My grandma doesn’t like me to be out on the streets.
My Dad is in the same kind of place my Mom is.
We had tacos at the jail today.
My grandma would let me stay longer at your house if you asked.
The host family program asks that you invite your guests to be a part of your family for a time, to do the things that you would normally do in the afternoons and evenings after they have visited their moms. As such we swam, we played, we grilled, we zip-lined, we danced, we made s’mores and ice cream sundaes. We picked blueberries, visited a farm, played monopoly, talked and made promises to keep in touch, certainly to see each other soon. On the last day of the children’s visit, host families are invited to the prison to meet the moms. During my last visit, the moms served us bagels and coffee; we watched a live presentation of the program Puppies Behind Bars, played cards, and talked. We talked about children and hardships and the things of this life. At the end, all of the host families, moms and children gathered in a circle, reflected on our time together, and passed the love, hand to hand. These are the mothers and these are the children for whom Jesus died.
This is part of a series of reflections on St. Matt's Summer Read: Barking to the Choir. Take a look at the rest of our Summer Reflections.