Last night I had dinner with a charitable group that helps support men who have been in jail, to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow. It was a church basement affair and my sister and I sat with four men we’d never met. It was almost impossible to tell who was a mentor and who was being mentored and amongst the four men I got to know, I wasn’t sure.
There is an element of internal tension for me in such gatherings. I don’t want to raise an awkward topic of discussion. So questions about work (if they don’t have any) and family (also if they don’t have any) are out.
I did at one point ask whether anyone had any nice Christmas memories from their childhood. Two of the men shook their head quite passionately, and another told how on St. Nicholas Day (December 6) he and his brother would leave their shoes outside their room and in the morning those shoes would be filled with a fruit and chocolate.
Later that evening, we sang some carols and concluded by standing in a big circle around the edge of the basement with candles. And one person lit the candle of the person standing next to them and so on, until it was a big, bright circle, while we sang Silent Night over and over. And then someone prayed for the whole group. It was quite moving, and this will now be part of a Christmas memory for me, as I hope it might be for those men who shook their heads in saying they didn’t have any Christmas memories from their youth.
Merry Christmas Eve.by