One recent Saturday morning at Camp Miller, I sat and watched as half a dozen teenage inmates helped lead a worship service. I listened as they spoke of their gratitude for family members, life, and the opportunity to fellowship with the volunteers who had come to visit them that morning. I listened even more intently as a few of them expressed their hopes of finishing school and becoming doctors, chefs, or volunteers themselves. Later, I tried to capture a bit of the awe, joy, hope, sorrow, and fear that had washed over me during that sacred hour.
Bearers of the divine image
in their scars and sorrows
as much as in their irrepressible dreams
of doing good
as well as doing well,
they wear the green and gray garb
with a restless resignation—
counting the days that stand between them
the minutes that still must transpire
before they will breach the barbed-wire boundary
that keeps them from home.
This fence, I’ve been trained to understand,
is a just necessity,
put in place to protect the bodies and belongings
of the law-abiding
from the reckless young men
now caught within its confines.
But what will protect the minds and spirits
of these wounded warriors
from those on the outs
who cannot or will not perceive
among defiant tattoos
and other marks
of a rough-and-tumble existence
the indelible stamp
of a Creator
who makes no mistakes?