I have witnessed the restorative and healing power singing has on countless people experiencing homelessness who participate in Matthew’s Voices. I have heard stories of how the choir has changed their perspective, given them hope, and provided much needed safety and emotional support. It’s an hour to relax and unwind through song, laughter, story sharing, and love.
Recently, a Matthew’s Voices singer was arrested for urinating behind a gas station in the dumpster fenced enclosure after he tried to use the restroom in the gas station. He was told that the restroom would open at 9:00 a.m. He, like me and countless others, didn’t have 10 minutes to wait. He was spotted by a policeman running to the back of the building and was charged with a Class C Misdemeanor for public nudity.
I heard about the arrest and decided to advocate for this singer. I wrote a letter to the court and the same day he was released from jail. I attended his recent court hearing which was adjudicated by a gracious community minded judge and after pleading guilty he was released with time served (3 days) and his court fee was waived.
I struggle with how our criminal justice system does not advocate for those who are incarcerated. I continue to grapple with how much power the prosecution has and the minimal power or in other words full understanding the judge has during proceedings. The “let’s make a deal” environment is damaging to the innocent and continues to feed a broken system.
After hearing the charge read during the singer’s hearing, I wondered if the judge knew the context of what happened. I believe he didn’t. The charge was clinical and had no context. I decided to write to him and share with him the many good things that are happening in this person’s life.
I share this with you as an effort to encourage you to call out injustice and oppression wherever you see it and not to seek accolades or affirmation.
I can’t imagine how unbearable it would be to experience homelessness. The constant worry of not having a place to rest, bathe, or use the restroom. I liken it to being a prisoner outside walls. There are restrictions at every turn.
I’m particularly grateful to this congregation for embracing those on the margins, loving the prisoner within walls and outside walls, and fostering an environment where people can learn and grow to love, advocate, and care for those who they never imagined they would have the opportunity or call to do so.
Let this be our prayer this week:
God of second, third, and fourth chances, lead us to be compassionate advocates for our brothers and sisters. Help us to open our hearts to nurturing meaningful relationships with people who we wouldn’t anticipate being in relationship with. Set aside time daily for us to minister to one another through fellowship, shared resources, and commitment to those who are perceived as the least and the lost. In all these things we pray, Amen.