August 11, 2014

Second Chances with Hour Children

For the past couple Fridays I've been volunteering with Hour Children, an organization that serves formerly incarcerated women and their families. Trinity Wall Street has been partnering with the organization for several years now, and each year I've tagged along on workshops to help the women with their resumes or talk about how to fill out a job application with a criminal conviction on your record.

One Friday I helped do a couple of mock interviews with women and the next Friday I mingled with them and other staff members so that the women could practice their networking skills. I find interviews very unpleasant and mingling is one of my least favorite activities. I imagine that when you have recently spent time in prison, these activities become even scarier. Many of the women have been practicing for a long time with the help of the Hour Children staff, and were more prepared to network than I've ever been. Others were clearly still adjusting to their lives outside prison. They seemed scared and embarrassed.

Some women arrived at the workshops ready to engage and others arrived seemingly skeptical and anxious. By the end of the workshops, those who were skeptical but stuck around anyway had begun to open up as they realized that no one intended to judge them, that they were among people who wanted them to succeed and wanted to help.

If you read this New York Times story, "The Sister of Second Chances," about Sister Tesa, the Catholic nun who founded Hour Children, you'll notice that some women drop out of the program. Some go back to prison or get involved in drugs. But Sister Tesa, as the title of the article suggests, gives many a second chance.

Most of the world is waiting for these women to fail. Most of the world is too busy to give them much attention, but the church can be different. The church can be a place of hope. We don't have to adopt any unrealistic optimism, but we can also be people that expect God to work in the world, that believe that with love people who are troubled or who have lost their way can find it again, people that are not here to judge but to serve.