A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 24, 2014
Be Kind—Reunite Kids and Moms (Feature Friday!)
The weather outside is frightful. As I look out the window, I think of blustery weather and dangerously low wind chills. A difficult time of year to travel, here in the Midwest. It’s even more of a challenge for people to travel, if they must rely on public transportation.
The prison ministry I used to drive for eases just such a challenge. The prison ministry of First Presbyterian Church of Evanston reunites incarcerated moms with their children—for at least part of a Saturday. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois organizes transportation for children and their caregivers (grandmothers, aunts, and other family members or friends). First Pres Evanston is one of their transportation volunteers. For years, this church has used their bus to transport loved ones to federal penitentiaries—for no charge to the relatives. The relatives transported are often on public aid, Social Security, or some other form of assistance. They have very little money to begin with, and often rely on public transportation. This makes trips to downstate prisons to see incarcerated loved ones almost an impossibility.
I was one of the main drivers for First Pres during most of the decade 2000 to 2010. I transported these relatives many miles on Saturdays. Never mind that I had to get to the church extra early to check out the bus, warm it up, and head off to the pick-up point on the south side of Chicago. (I didn’t mind. Really. Honest.) That pick-up point—a huge strip mall parking lot next to the expressway—struck me as particularly sad. Shrewd, cynical shysters crassly make money (a LOT of money) doing the same thing. Transporting loved ones in similar situations, at a considerable profit. A few years ago, the price for one of these for-profit seats on the commercial buses lined up at the lot’s edge was in the area of $35 to $40. That was the price PER SEAT. If a grandma wanted to take two or three grandchildren to see their mom in prison, the cost would triple or quadruple. Way out of reach for those on a limited income.
I willingly gave up frequent Saturdays to drive the church bus, because I believed in being kind, offering what I had—some driving ability and a commercial driver’s license—for others. But I didn’t immediately make the connection with the words of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, specifically in Matthew 25:31-46. I finally got my elbow nudged from God: I helped these relatives to go see their loved ones, the incarcerated women. So, yes. I was aiding them to do what Jesus directed in verses 36 and 39-40. (“What you did for the least of these.”) I had a small part in making the world a more nurturing place, a more compassionate place. And most especially, allowing children to have some kind of personal, face-to-face relationship with their moms.
Thank God there are people who still willingly give up their Saturdays to drive to prisons a long distance away. And I pray for ministries like that of First Presbyterian Church in Evanston and Lutheran Social Services. Bless them, and prosper their continued ministry. What a way to be kind and tender-hearted.