Tears on the Stairs

 

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Tears on the Stairs  October 2016

To get there we walked up a flight of 81 stairs. To leave, and it should have been easier, we walked down the 81. We climbed up with Olivia. I had seen her here before, and as always, she was nicely dressed, her hair was perfectly styled and her makeup was carefully applied. At 70, she was still a beauty.

It was all hugs, smiles, laughs and giggles. They gossiped and told the news of those they knew. Each shared about what was going on in his and her worlds. Their eyes sparkled.   The kids jostled and shouted in the playground. Some played simple card games like hearts. Others stacked wooden Jenga blocks with squeals when the pile collapsed. Most just held hands with each other and chatted. Some strolled arm in arm around the edges.

We all sat on a sunny terrace enjoying another beautiful California afternoon. There were drinks and food, ice cream and pastries. It was all very cordial. At high noon one of the trustees brought out a digital camera and took pictures of the family groups, which would later be given to someone to take home. Before we knew it, the clock had ticked to 1:45, and it was nearly time to leave.

As Sylvia walked out the gate, I saw the first tear fall and land solidly on the concrete at her feet.   Then came Nancy and George as he went quickly ahead of her with his jaws clenched, while Nancy wiped her tears from her face with her ponytail. Her son was the one in the red jumper, the one the guards kept their eyes on constantly.   Sandy hugged her brother and opened the gate; the sadness was there, but she put up a good front and smiled as she gently closed it.

As I looked around the visiting area of the prison in Norco, I realized how much had happened on those eventful days that led to this situation for each of these men. Some were young and some not so young. The impact had hit so many people; those they loved and those they didn’t. Now they joyfully came to see them for a few hours of happiness. Able to bring some delight to someone in prison, and yet as they left the sadness overwhelmed them.

I turned and watched as Benny waved to his two-year-old daughter, and she waived back from her mother’s arms. Benny could not smile thinking about this girl who would score soccer goals, go to the prom, and graduate from high school before his days here were completed. Yet, over Benny’s shoulder I saw a man in the window, up in the dormitory on the other side of two sets of concertina barbed wire topped fences. No one visited him today.   No one ever did. He too was crying from a prison that was far worse than the bars which dictated where he lived.

Matthew 25: 44 “For I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. (45) I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”     – Jesus

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