Finding Hope - Debbie

How many times have you heard "have a nice day" from a customer service representative and scoffed at the routine manner in which it was delivered.  Try that same scene with a handicapped person and see how many times the mandatory good wishes are avoided.

 I've often heard that actions by people of faith should be noticeable to others.  Debbie came to my attention in just that way.   Laura and  I enter a local  store almost daily.  That's where we met Debbie.  I noticed that she was equally as communicative and friendly with Laura as with my wife and  me.  That caught my attention.  In conversation she proved the saying about noticing people of faith. 

Debbie was a career, county corrections officer.  At that time in her career she worked in a section of the facility that had minimum security inmates. Although the inmates were nonviolent, many were multiple offenders of addiction type crimes.  

 Twelve hour shifts over twenty years of service took its toll.  If the trauma of every day high school makes one pessimistic, think what a correction facility could do to your spirit.  The hope of a joyful day seems low on an average workday.

Debbie tried to be friendly with all the inmates even the grumpy ones.  Little did she know that one man's words of wisdom from the bible and the street of hard knocks would clarify her understanding of mercy and grace.  He was an older gentleman, in for multiple offenses due to alcohol addiction.

 Almost every day she would see him with his bible and often they would discuss biblical issues.  Damaged, he knew of God's unconditional love.  He spoke of mercy bestowed on him by God and  others.  Debbie engaged to be polite but deep down she still had the same inner questions that never seemed to get answered in church.  It is hard to separate the sin and the sinner, yet that's exactly what Jesus calls us to do.

One day in July 2015 Debbie's car was hit from behind by a truck while driving on the Atlantic City Expressway.  Her car spun into the guard rail while the truck sped across the median into oncoming traffic .  It was the kind of event that draws a "breaking news" interruption on the television.

 Debbie suffered multiple bruises and a severely broken wrist which had to be surgically repaired.  First responders said she was lucky.  She didn't feel lucky.  She was angry and the why me questions were incorporated into every discussion.  She was out of work for three months, and for someone dedicated to her work, this just added to the torment. 

One day in church she thought about the inmate and all the discussions on grace and mercy.  The seat next to her was empty but it felt like someone was whispering in her ear with marked clarity.  From that day forward she always left an empty seat next to her for the Holy Spirit.  Maybe the same Holy Spirit whispering in her inmates ear with the final message to "pass on the good news. 

She came to the realization that she could have been killed or paralyzed, so in retrospect what she suffered was minor.  "Stop complaining",  she thought.  "You have been given a gift now it's time to use it."  She centered her studies on the concepts of grace and mercy.  She focused during her church and prayer time, blocking out all the negative distractions that prevented her from hearing God's voice.

When she was physically able, she returned to the correction facility to thank the inmate who had witnessed to her.  Unfortunately he was gone, and privacy laws prevented her from knowing what happened.  The inability to thank him; to tell him that his witness made a difference in her life, has haunted her to this day.

 I've seen her interact with others.  She willingly shared this story with me, a relative stranger, and agreed to allow me to pass it on to you.  This is her way of thanking him and the Holy Spirit.  She is starting to do exactly what she was meant to do. She was spared from permanent harm for a reason.    Offering kindness and mercy is only her next step.  Who knows where God will lead her, as long as she keeps listening.

 - Jim Randazzo

Finding Hope within a Community of Faith

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Never give up on God even when it seems hopeless