Our Week Bedford Hills/St. Stephen’s PartnershipJuly 8th – 13th, 2017
by Eleanor Arnold
Twenty miles separate our home in Wilton from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. I have traveled that route more than 200 times, picking up kids, visiting moms, touring, attending programs. Every time I am there, I am reminded of a sermon I once heard. An Episcopal priest, dedicated to mission work, described the individual stories of several people who lived on society’s fringes – a homeless veteran, a serial addict, and a recently released parolee. After each of their deeply personal stories, he said, “this is a person for whom Jesus died.”
The stories of the mothers in Bedford Hills Correctional are varied and compelling. Their children, of course, are innocent victims, whose lives are forever altered. Ten of these children came for six days to six host families this week.
Our family hosted two boys, and these were some of the things that were said at our house this week:
Who lives in all of these rooms?
My Mom will be out when I am 18 or 20.
How does the dishwasher work? Do you just lay the bowl in?
My Dad got out of jail but had to go back in because he couldn’t find a job and it was hard taking care of me.
My grandma doesn’t like me to be out on the streets.
And at others’ houses:
My grandma said I could get a mani/pedi before I came home.
My Dad is in the same kind of place my Mom is.
We had tacos at the jail today.
Look at the birthday presents my Mom got for me.
My grandma would let me stay longer at your house if you asked.
Do you live in a mansion?
As a group of 24 this week, we swam, we played, we grilled, we zip-lined, we danced, we made s’mores and ice cream sundaes. As families with guests, we picked blueberries, visited farms, played cards and monopoly, had Wii playoffs, did puzzles, talked and made promises to keep in touch, certainly to see each other next summer. And on our last day, we went to the prison to visit the mothers of the children we hosted. We ate bagels and donut holes, watched a live presentation of the program Puppies Behind Bars, played some cards, and talked. We talked about children and hardships and the things of this life. At the end, we gathered in a circle, had the opportunity to reflect a little about our week, and passed the love, hand to hand. These are the mothers and these are the children for whom Jesus died.