Nuns, Ex-Cons and a Room Filled with Cats…
With a title like that, hopefully I have gotten your attention. For anyone else, these are three totally unrelated items all with which you may have a second thought about encountering, but for me, this is my heaven on Earth. Call me crazy (and many do), but I got to pay a visit to Hour Children yesterday.
For those of you who didn’t see their spot on CBS News a couple of weeks ago, this organization helps children who have incarcerated mothers and women in and coming out of prison. It is run by Sr. Tesa Fizgerald, a sister of St. Joseph (my favorite order which houses all my Cali nuns). I have to admit when I got there, I was feeling a little down in the dumps because of some recent disappointments. However, when I walked into Sr. Tesa’s office and I was greeted by none other than a black and white tuxedo cat, I knew my day was bound to turn around.
As we talked and she told me all of what Hour Children had been up to in the past three years, which is the last time I saw her, and I was amazed. They had an afterschool program, a thrift shop, a beauty salon, a mentoring program, supportive housing, classes inside for women, and a job readiness program. It reminded me a lot of Homeboy Industries in California.
The beauty of all of it was that the women who had come out and went through the program were working for her now. As you walked around, you could see God’s grace throughout the multiple buildings. Everyone was so excited to be there and to be giving back to other women and children. The energy is something that I have missed since I left Get On The Bus.
One of the things that the organization prides itself on is second chances. However, the second chances do really make a difference for the women. According to the Bureau of Justice Stats, 30% of all incarcerated women in NY State go back to prison. Compare this to just 4% of women who participate in Hour Children programs. I was so inspired that by the time I left, I signed up to be a Mentor. The volunteer commitment is 8 hours a month for a year. You are matched with a woman who is just coming out who is similar to you. As a Mentor, you walk with the woman as she comes out. Most of the work is done via phone and e-mail and there is normally a get together gathering once a month. I am going for my training on Saturday and I am very excited about it!
The moral of today’s story is that everyone has downer days, but when you do, find whatever it is that you need to pick yourself up. If you don’t know, try my recipe for happiness: nuns, ex-cons and cats! ;p