*Special note from Nicole: When I read the first few paragraphs of this column in print in the paper, I was disappointed in myself. The paper published what I wrote, and somehow, by seeing it in black and white, I began to see it through different eyes. Please forgive me if I sounded judgmental. I truly believe that people make decisions — good AND bad– based on the kindness others have shown them in life. I didn’t mean to say that inmates don’t deserve kindness, love or forgiveness… I only meant to say that it hurts to explore my own faults and limitations– specifically the fear I hold for prisons. -Nicole
It’s one thing to help someone who has fallen on hard times without having done anything wrong. But it’s completely foreign to me how someone could step out of his or her comfort zone to help people who have brought the hard luck on themselves.
I received a letter from a woman named Marilyn Johnson that got me thinking about the amount of kindness it would take for a person to go into a jail or prison and talk with the inmates. I’m not sure I have it in me, and I’m amazed by the people who do.
Here’s what Marilyn has to say about her experience:
“The story begins while I was listening to the news Oct. 27, 2004, reporting about the body of a man found on a road north of Park River, N.D. Monica Fox Moreno was arrested and charged with the shooting death of her husband, Greg.
I kept thinking about the story and about Monica. Finally, something moved me to go to the Grafton jail and see her. I didn’t tell anyone. I was scared. I had never been to a jail before. When I saw Monica, I introduced myself and told her I wasn’t there to ask any questions, I just wanted to know if she wanted me to pray with her. She said, ‘Yes, please,’ and we both began to cry.
I returned the next week and the next. Each week I would pray with her before I left. One day, the half-hour visit went by and the jailer came to tell us the time was up before we had been able to pray. I felt really badly on the way home – after all, prayer was all I could give her – no treats, no gifts, nothing.
The next visit, the first thing Monica said was, ‘Marilyn, we forgot to pray last time, so this time, let’s pray first so we don’t forget.’
While in Grafton, Monica was advised to plead guilty instead of going to trial.
I kept in touch with her even after she was transported to the women’s prison just south of Dickinson. She became an assistant to the chaplain, completed welding classes, and after nearly two years in jail was able to buy herself a plane ticket back to Texas.
Monica praises God and thanks him for all the protection and blessings he has bestowed on her. I thank him for using me to share the story of Christ’s love.”
Marilyn, thank you for sending in that letter of kindness.
There is a whole army of people who believe that men and women in jail need to hear about God’s forgiveness. Many volunteer to hold Bible studies or just visit with the inmates through the Jail Chaplains program.
If you found Marilyn’s story intriguing, you can learn more about the group at the dessert social they are having at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Fargo Holiday Inn. The featured speaker is a woman who will talk about what happened when she received the call that her son had killed a man.
Tickets are available at area Hornbacher’s or online at www.jailchaplains.com.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the executive director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.