Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York
Selection from Paul’s book, God’s Hand Reaches Down
David came to the Chaplain’s office because he had just found out his mother had died. He was a taller Latin man, a little over six feet, with the rough exterior of years of street life. I could see the pain in his eyes, and the sorrow in his heart. I barely knew him, but the Holy Spirit told me to embrace him. So I did. I told him, “David, I am so sorry for your loss,” and then I just hugged him. I felt his large frame collapse into the crook of my neck like a child, and he began to weep. All the emotion he was holding in convulsed out into broken sobs, and as I held him strongly while rubbing his back and giving him words of consolation. In that moment, he needed the gentleness of an embrace to open his Spirit. Other than being accosted by a correctional officer during a pat frisk on the wall, many of us have never been held for five, ten, twenty plus years, let alone hugged during a vulnerable time. We prayed and I could visibly see the relief on his face and the resolve to get through this difficult time. The power of gentleness, especially amid the tough exteriors of prisoners, is not to be underestimated. Over the years because of my care for my fellow prisoners and the goodness that lies within them, through the gentle example of Jesus, I have been able to reach people during the most challenging times of familial loss, lockdowns, gang wars, riots, and unrest.
Doesn’t surprise me about Paul one bit. He’ll give you a hug or the shirt off his back if it’ll mean just making you feel good. His Godly soul is unmatched.
Throughout my son’s wrongful incarceration he has managed to bring light to an otherwise dark place.