No Day is Quite the Same
What better place than a Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) to be able to embrace so many miss-matched pieces of a child’s life from behind a lens that seeks to encourage, pray, connect, and refer! As a volunteer chaplain inside the walls of the Tarrant County JJC, it is an honor to have such a mission. Just as God created us all uniquely, it can be very clear that no child or family at the JJC experiences anything quite the same as anyone else. However, the role of a chaplain is to bring a calm and steady presence as well as a listening ear, being prepared to turn each hurting, angry, scared and lost person toward the love and compassion of Jesus.
This morning, I started the day with an email from a detention officer. It was a request to visit with a girl at my earliest convenience. This is a typical occurrence and a practice the staff has become accustomed to requesting. (How welcoming to be invited by the security staff into a part of the facility where they are required to keep order as much as possible!) When I went to visit with her, she immediately began to tear up and tell me that she did not know what was wrong with her. She “didn’t know if it was anxiety or depression or what it was, but at night in [her] room, she felt like she was going to die and that the walls were caving in.” I got to hug her, and then we talked about her situation. By the time we ended talking, she was breathing regularly, not crying, and promising me that she would eat and drink everything she could “stomach,” and that she would use her words with the staff so that they could keep a close watch on her. I also told her that I was going to call the staff psychologist, so that he could assess what type of supervision she might need. And from there, our conversation ended with a, “thank you”, a half grin, eyes wide open with hope for a better night’s sleep, despite the stress of an upcoming court date.
In the afternoon, I entered a holding room just outside of a courtroom. Two juvenile girls were waiting in there until someone – their assigned probation officer – would take them into court. They were each arrested last night; one girl had been to the JJC, but the other had not. Soon after introducing myself, the repeat offender asked me if I’d pray. The new detainee apparently did not connect that I was there for spiritual support. She had a look of surprise and almost a sudden transformation of peace. I could tell Jesus lived inside her because her Peace looked different than someone, who perhaps makes a conscious decision to just stop crying so to get on with a “last shot in the dark” prayer. Being short on time, I quickly prayed for each of the two girls. When I finished, both of the girls looked me straight in the eye and seemed to be trusting that I was going to listen to anything they had to say. I also trusted that they were hearing every word I was saying. So, I used my last 30 seconds to point out to each of them how special and important they were, and how I believe God heard our prayer.
Other interactions I had at work, just today, included a short conversation with an attorney regarding his next career step, waving hello across the lobby to another attorney, passing by a detention supervisor and agreeing with him that it’s “good to be ‘teammates’ in this place,” receiving an email from a probation officer who wanted to thank me for friendship and check in on a personal matter I’d shared with her, going to lunch with a mixed group of current and previous employees, and preparing merit-based certificates of achievement for juveniles. The JJC is a place full of stress, yet God placed chaplaincy right in the center, if only to make daily connections with people, who just don’t want to be alone “right now.” Each morning, as the day unfolds, it is interesting and refreshing to see just who will cross my path. Praise the Lord! No day is quite the same!