Love thy neighbor. Three simple words – but how often do we reject them?

I attended a faith-based conference some time ago where a woman who is a counselor spoke about her role in the healing process. She talked about a grandmother who had come to see her whose son was in prison. The grandmother felt that she had no one to turn to, and she felt isolated, shunned even by church members. The counselor commented on how so much as a small acknowledgement and offer to talk, or simply listen, would have meant so much to this woman.

Recently I had a conversation with a woman whose pastor, when told of the imminent release of the woman’s husband from prison, told her that he could no longer be her pastor!

For close to a year, another woman and I have been attempting to start a support group for families of incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, or friends thereof. We have had little success. We know there are people “out there” who struggle with the issue of someone close to them being in prison or jail. Why can we not get them to attend?

I grew up in a conservative, all-white, moderate income neighborhood. Prison, for me, was merely something I read about, or saw and heard about on television. When the son of some friends ended up in prison, it was simply not a topic up for discussion. It seems it may be the same way still.

I lived in the city, but I did not live in the inner city. Since a larger prison population comes from inner city neighborhoods, are things are the same way there? Do people still not speak about it? Are families and friends there ignored and rejected as well? How do people do it?

What are we, as a society, doing to change this? Is our faith community one that accepts everyone? What about the homeless? Or the mentally ill? Or the disabled?

I’m so very tired of the negativity of the political world where everyone has “an agenda.” I’m saddened by violence in our world.  I’m overwhelmed by all the strife. The world is a difficult enough place without having a place of safe haven, and the blessing of someone to be there through rough times. How much better a place this world would be if we heeded those three words and acted upon them! May it someday be so. Let us soon…very soon…learn what a blessing it can be if we truly do love our neighbor.

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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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