When we take a walk with a friend, it is healthy, fun and rejuvenating to our body, mind and spirit. When we walk with a neighbor in need, it is that much more rewarding. Those who walk with the forgotten, suffering or deprived feel especially renewed in spirit – this is what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo County (SVdP) volunteers do every day.
To hold hands, to walk with and try to heal those who have been affected by crime is an important ministry. One SVdP Restorative Justice volunteer’s spiritually moving encounter illuminates the call to walk with our brothers and sisters in Christ:
“As a fairly new volunteer for jail ministry, I was blessed to have a very spiritual experience recently. I have always felt inadequate at interpreting the scriptures so I rely heavily on the wonderful homilies given by my pastor. I also have the goal of emphasizing a message of God’s never-ending love and compassion as well as His constant presence in all of our lives.
I was at the men’s jail and I noticed a young man who was very emotional throughout the service and discussions. After everyone left, he asked to speak with me. We sat across from one another and began to cry. He told me how he had never been in jail before and how he didn’t belong there. With tears rolling down his face, he talked about being a good person, how scared he was to tell his mother what had happened, and with every word he spoke I could sense that he was in great pain. I didn’t really know what I should say, so I just held his hands and reassured him that he truly was a good person and I listened to him for as long as he needed to talk. Then we said a prayer and I told him I would continue to pray for him. He smiled as he left and said he felt much better.
I arrived home and told my husband about this young man. I felt for him and worried about him because he was so young. I thought of him a lot over the next day and evening. The following morning, I prepared to go to a doctor’s appointment. For some unknown reason, I left my house early and then realized I was way ahead of schedule for this appointment. I knew I would be passing a Starbucks in a few minutes and decided to stop there for a coffee. Yet, instead, I drove past. Then, I remembered there was a Starbucks a block away from my appointment.
When I pulled into a parking space I glanced to my left and saw who I thought was the young man from the jail. But it couldn’t possibly be him – he was in jail two days ago. I stepped out of my car and the young man glanced up. Suddenly, he whooped, jumped out of the car, and threw his arms around me. And I was so happy to see him! He told me the surveillance camera would prove that he shouldn’t have been arrested and that he had a lot of time to think while he was in jail. He had decided to go back to school along with telling his mother what had happened. He was so excited and talking so fast that I could barely keep up with the conversation. I just kept smiling and nodding my head. When we hugged good-bye, it was the most wonderful feeling for me to see him so happy and on the road to a more successful life. Then he turned around and said, ‘Your prayers worked!’
I felt amazing on my drive home. I knew that what I had just experienced didn’t “just happen.” Those were the same words my daughter said when I told her about it the next day. My husband was in awe over the whole thing. We all know that God is with us always. But having Him in the car with me, directing me to that particular parking space at that particular time was something I will never forget.”
Thank you for walking hand in hand with our neighbors in need.