His story really fascinated me.
The same place that he was convinced he would never go near, was the very place he was sent. The journey to get there was fascinating too.
When people had talked about visiting people in prisons, he had said that it was definitely not his thing. Although he was hugely supportive of those who went and did it, he thought it would be a bit too scary for him. He had heard reports about the sort of characters in there. He also had an issue with knowing his own deep anger at what those imprisoned had done to his cousin and his sister. The things they had done was so devastating that in his sister’s case, she was not able to form a deep and intimate relationship with any man again. He was very concerned that those feelings of anger, bitterness and hatred would not allow him to relate to any of the inmates.
He was convinced that this was not for him. There was no persuading otherwise.
Until his son was imprisoned. He did not need to agonise about the matter for long in terms of visiting his son. Although the crime was serious, he could not disown his son. He could turn his back on his son. He knew he had to visit him, but he steeled himself for the experience.
The first visit was done very quickly. He focused on going in to see his son, speaking to him to check on his welfare and leave as soon as he could. This was his approach for the first few visits. As he got comfortable with the procedure, though, he began to pay attention to others. The wardens, the other inmates, those parents and loved ones who would come and visit. He looked at the faces and something tugged at him.
He remembered the relationship process that changed his life. He remembered how someone took note of him when everyone seemed to ignore or dismiss him. He remembered the genuine heart of concern that led him to be mentored, trusted, loved and encouraged. It was from there that his life turned around and he got involved in a community of others who were committed to loving, encouraging and trusting each other. It’s where the whole prison visits thing had come from.
When he remembered how that love and encouragement had turned him around, he looked at his son, he looked at those who wore similar outfits to his son. He looked at the drab surrounding and even the evident stresses and strains on the staff at the prison. He knew what the tugging was about.
Even when his son eventually left the prison – and able to rebuild his life because of the love, encouragement and trust of his father – this man still went to the prison. He developed relationships with a few of them – inmates, staff as well as some loved ones visiting. He helped them come into contact with something healing, something full of mercy and compassion, something full of peace even when there were failings.
Years later his son remarked on the even greater change he saw in his Dad. How that had such a huge impact on him that he started doing something similar especially with his experience of being behind bars. One of the things he said that helped him so much was how his Dad was able to bring light into the darkness with a word, a sentiment, a gesture, just the knowledge of his presence.
It was incredible for him to see that into the darkness he shines …
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden