When I was a kid there were a few things that scared me: clowns, really old people, dogs off a leash and Santa Clause…not the one who came to my house…but the one in the shopping center. He just…well…he just creeped me out.
But there was one thing that didn’t scare me…ever…and that was the God that I grew up with.
I remember one night…a night soon after my mom got sober, I was sitting on a chair in her bedroom. She was reading.
“How do you know there is a God?” I asked her.
She paused…long enough from her reading…to think…or feel…and then she spoke.
“I just do.”
“You just do…WHAT?” I asked her.
“I just know.”
A few weeks later she converted to Catholicism. My father and I continued going to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church together and she went to her church…alone. It wasn’t too long after that they got divorced and I started going to a Baptist Church with my best friend Susan. The youth group there was way more fun. We took trips to Walt Disney World and Washington D.C. We performed a musical. I had a mad-crush on the choir director. I started drinking. I left for college.
And now…after years of trying to see God, find God, practice God, love God, trust God, understand God, pray to God, name God, chant God, label God…I decided to just love people.
So yesterday in the jail, when the ladies interrupted our regularly scheduled Red Boot Meeting there, to tell me that they had something to share…I knew, as my mother knew…that God, Love, Grace…was in the room.
“In honor of the one year anniversary of the Red Boot Coalition we made some cards for you. Thank you Molly. Thanks to all the ladies who come here every Thursday. Thank you so much.”
She gently placed over 30 handwritten letters in my lap.
I cried. I cried hard…and they did too.
We sat in the silence of the love there and let it be.
After a minute or two, I asked, “Why do you think I do this?”
“You love us. We matter.” One of the women responded.
We cried some more…and then we laughed about all the crying. One of the inmates went and got some Kleenexes. We passed them around.
Sniffles, more tears, smiles and giggles…a minute or two more passed.
One of the newcomers…she had a tough exterior…was just trying to figure out what all the hot fuss was about. “Why DO you do this? Why do you come here?”
I thought about it for a minute…and then I decided the words would come better if I quit thinking and let my heart talk instead.
“Where I live…we are all equal. We matter because everyone here has the capacity for great love. We are love.
Of course there is the other world…the one where we are measured by our achievements, the amount of money we have, the cars we drive, the colleges we go to…there is that world and I am in it…but I don’t live there. That world doesn’t make sense to me. It never has. It isn’t bad or good. It’s just another place or view or perspective. But it just isn’t mine.
And the truth is…in that world we will never be equal…not really. As long as our worth is measured by the money we make or the jobs we hold…the degrees we have…we will never be equal.
But in mine…the one we have here every Thursday…that world…we are equal. We are loved because we are here.”
We cried some more. We laughed some more. We got more kleenexes.
“Is it cool with ya’ll if I read some of your letters?”
And I did…
“Thank you Red Boot. I have come to see that despite being physically confined, my mind is free.”
“Even though I am far away from my home and far away from my fiancé and my loved ones, I still remain grateful for the love I can find here.”
On and on and on…the words came, the sharing, the crying, the gratitude.
The tears flow again this morning as the words of my mother rise up in my heart like the mist rising into sun’s first kiss of a new day.
“I just know.”
(Ann Davant Crehore, Amy Helms and Marcia Lamb…this one is for you. Thank you for giving your hearts, your time and your energy to our The Red Boot Coalition meetings at the jail. )