Grateful Behind Bars

In the most unexpected places and moments, one can find profound gratitude.

“I’m grateful I went to jail… jail saved me,” were the words of a man who visited me this evening. He shared that for approximately 7/8 years, he was heavily involved in alcohol and drugs, including heroin. He viewed his 18-month prison sentence as a period of grace.

Now, it’s been 20 months since he touched alcohol. He sees his success as inseparable from his faith in God’s strength. Although he still resides in a hostel with 18 other occupants and relies on sick benefits, he’s grateful for the experience. According to him, many others in different places aren’t as fortunate.

He perceives God as in the story of “footprints.” For him, God never abandoned him. God was always with him even in the toughest times. I added that his faith in God must be coupled with diligent effort. It’s not just about praying; he also needs to strive and work hard for a better life. That’s “Ora et Labora.”

“I don’t want to compare my life to others,” he continued. “My life is my own, and it can’t be the same as those around me. That’s why I want to ‘move on.’ The past is the past. I need to approach the present and future wisely.”

I’m grateful to have met this man who rang my doorbell and asked for food this afternoon. I didn’t give much, just a few slices of bread and some tea along with the beef casserole I offered later. This brief encounter and simple act have enriched my spiritual life in the most beautiful way today.

Today’s encounter reminds us that acts of kindness and compassion, no matter how small, have the power to transform lives and nurture the soul.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35-36).

By Fr Nilora SVD


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