The other day I visited a young black man from Philadelphia doing time for an armed robbery.
First, let me say that there is no way I could have imagined spending time with a thug like Steve before I was led into prison ministry — and it’s safe to assume most people would feel likewise. That’s why I’d like to share what happened. If nothing else, maybe this story will make everyone hug their families extra close tonight and thank God for our blessings.
Steve is about 5 foot 4, with thick glasses and a nervous stutter. I first met him about a year ago. He was so anxious during our first interview, he could barely string three words together and his hands shook like someone suffering end-stage Parkinson’s.
I found out his back story from some prison staff. Steve has been in prison for 20 years since he was 13 years old — and during that entire 20 years no one had EVER come to visit him. Later, I learned that his mother sold him when he was six years old for some heroin and he wound up being passed around from home to home, a victim of physical and sexual abuse.
After a few visits Steve warmed up to me and the stutter eased up some. I was struck by how fascinated he was by my life and my family; he was always asking me questions about them. He seemed particularly amazed that we ate our meals together and went to our kids’ sporting events.