We all send messages–through the way we talk, the way we look, the way we behave, the way we are.
Every day, we send hundreds of tiny messages to those around us. Just this morning, during the 30 minutes of worship team practice we had before worship service, we probably each sent each other a dozen or more messages—“Good to see you!” “How are you feeling this morning?” “What a game that was last night!” “Let’s watch our pitch on the end of that song.” “It is a privilege and an honor to get to get to worship our Savior together with you this morning.”
And as I sit here taking some time to write, I’m communicating with my crew–“Somebody eat that last piece of pizza!” “Is anyone else cold?” “What’s going to happen to the Avengers now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone? (from Captain America)” and “Later we need to go to the grocery store.”
My crew doesn’t even have to say anything. I can read their body language and know when they are tired. When they are frustrated. When they are hyper. When they are excited. When they are sad.
God has gifted us with this gift of communication. It’s vitally important. When communication is cut off, then how we know or see a person is severely limited. God created us to live in community. It’s no wonder that the word “community” and “communication” come from the same root word.
Today I met with a new friend who understands the importance of communication. Her name is Carolyn LeCroy and she is the founder of The Messages Project and the author of the book A Parent’s Message. Her passion-her work-is to connect children with their incarcerated parents in ways that are healthy and hopeful, in place of relationships that many times are tumultuous and raw.
She–and the volunteers in her foundation–do this through literature, which is a passion of my life. They enter prisons, and allow inmates to choose a book as a gift to their child, no matter what the age. They then will film the inmate as a DVD gift to go along with the book present. The volunteers “coach” the inmates on how to talk to their child–maybe they will read some or all of the book to their child during their filming. Or maybe they are illiterate themselves, and will instead talk to their child about the book and other things. Or maybe they aren’t illiterate, but will use the DVD just to send a message of parental love–as best they can–to their child.
A child with an incarcerated parent lives in a world that is, at best, “missing” something. Often, it can be a chaotic, confusion world. Maybe they are living with Aunty or Grandma now. Maybe they have never seen their parent sober, off of drugs, not angry at them. Maybe they have had everything torn from their lives and they are fighting for some sense of normalcy.
The gift of a book and a DVD from a parent serving time in prison can become a priceless, cherished item. I know that it did for my youngest daughter, when she received a book and cassette tape from a similar local program. Carolyn told me the story of one incarcerated father who kept looking at the books offered, but kept saying “But my son is 18.” When asked if he remembered the last time he had read to his son, his answer was that he never had. He was convinced to pick out a book that he remembered as a child (The Night Before Christmas) and to just give the son a short message on how when he was a child he remembered that book and wanted his son to have a copy. This book/DVD became precious to this son and opened doors of communication between father and son.
You see, messages matter. Honest communication matters. Not promises that can’t be kept. Not platitudes and shallow words. But honest and real messages. “I miss you.” “I’m sorry.” “I love you.” “I wish you the best in this life.”
Yes, today has been about The Messages Project and the tremendous good they are doing in the lives of both children and inmates. As a mother of 4 children with an incarcerated father, I know the importance of this “Messages” work. The value of it. And if you’d like to become involved either through giving or volunteering, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. There are exciting opportunities on the horizon for this amazing project.
But today has also been a day of reminding me just how important communication is. Just how important that the things I say, the way I behave, and the attitude I have are and the effect they have not only on my crew, but on my church family and those I come in contact with each and every day. The cashier at the checkout counter. My elderly neighbor. The tired teacher at my kid’s school.
Jesus was a communicator. He used words and actions to communicate to those he came in contact with His very real love and eternal hope. The crowds watched Him. His followers watched and listened to Him. Even His enemies watched and listened to what He had to say. And via Jesus’ death on the cross, God’s redemptive plan for the world was put into place.
So we must be cognizant of our words, our actions, our behavior. I, personally, have so far to go–so much improvement to strive for in this area. Our children are watching and listening. Our neighbors and co-workers and friends are watching and listening.
Just like the inmates and their children in The Messages Project, those around us are looking for hope, for love, and for acceptance. Let’s be light in a world where there is too much darkness.