(the Best of) Be Kind—Reunite Kids and Moms (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 22, 2015

The post that follows is a post that means a lot to me, and a ministry I felt deeply about, for a number of years. Even though I am now in other ministries and have moved on from this loving, giving church, this particular ministry to incarcerated moms and their families continues. Thank God for loving, caring people who willingly give of their money, time and talents to help others.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 24, 2014

BK kindness workboots on

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.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

Be Kind—Reunite Kids and Moms (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 24, 2014

BK kindness workboots on

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.

@chaplaineliza

Taxi Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 16, 2014

autumn road

autumn road

Taxi Service

The act of service I focused on today involved driving someone somewhere. More of an errand, and it wasn’t as if the person I drove couldn’t have taken public transportation. Nevertheless, I drove my youngest daughter to and from the community college, where she’ll start spring semester next week.

Have I mentioned that I used to drive commercially for a living? (At least, part-time. That wasn’t enough to live on, but it certainly helped cash flow in the family.) Thinking about the title of this blog post, that’s where the “taxi” part of my act of serving comes from. And “service?” A bit of a pun, but I wanted to write and think more in depth about serving. About taking the opportunity to be available for people.

To begin, I went to Richard Foster’s tremendous guide on the spiritual disciplines and Christian spirituality, Celebration of Discipline. His brief chapter on service is full of pithy quotes and penetrating insights into the place of service, and differing ways to serve in the world.

Sure, I could have gotten all ‘intellectual,’ and become fascinated by the words of various saints and their different takes on service, and the way Richard Foster incorporated them into the chapter. But that’s not the point. My point is to find out what Foster says about serving through transportation. He did talk about it, and gave this example that caused me to think hard about my whole activity of service, 365 days of service.

He spoke of the time he was in the “frantic final throes” of writing his doctoral dissertation. A friend called. The friend’s wife had taken their car, but the man needed to run several errands. He asked Foster whether he might have a ride to do the errands. Foster begrudgingly took the man around. Before leaving, he grabbed Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, just in case he might have a little time between errands. I’ll let Foster continue. “Through each errand I inwardly fretted and fumed at the loss of precious time. Finally, at a supermarket, the final stop, I waved my friend on, saying I would wait in the car. I picked up my book, opened it to the marker, and read these words: ‘The second service that one should perform for another in a Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service.’”

Through the power of narrative and example, Richard Foster gave us a marvelous definition and description of taxi service. Bonhoeffer’s words can also be construed to mean general acts of service as well, not just those of transportation. (Though taxi service was what Foster had been doing, at this specific time.) God, I am convicted both by Foster’s example as well as by Bonhoeffer’s words of advice and admonishment. I give thanks for the acts of service I find each day. Please, God, help me, show me some service to do tomorrow.

@chaplaineliza