Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Do the Next Thing

Last week in the prison, my coworker was talking about how to get through the days when you are locked up. In addition to my work at Ayuda, I have been working 2 days a week w/ the Mural Arts Program in the Philadelphia Prisons. So far, I have worked with juvenile women and men; teenagers in jumpsuits. My coworker is very inspiring to me; she's a former inmate and has a lot to share with the juveniles about what it takes to get one's life straight when you get out of jail. One of the girls last week was pretty much freaking out about how she couldn't do it anymore... being in jail was killing her. My coworker was talking about how you can't look down the road when you're locked up; you can only do what is right in front of you whether that's a phone call, writing a letter, eating a meal, making a picture, watching tv... it's too paralyzing to think about what lies ahead and how you can't control what those things will be. I shared with the girls that my Mom had sent me a poem and it talks about doing the next thing. They all wanted me to bring in a copy for them.

Today, I go back to the prisons; I carry two things. One, a poem for the juvenile women and two, the funeral papers for one of the juvenile men who's friend got shot two weeks ago. The victim's father and grandmother go to my church. His murder hit our church pretty hard as he was only 15. Both the inmate and I were pretty shocked that we had this boy's death in common. I felt a strong sense of God's presence as he and I talked about his death. It was a unique opportunity for both of us to share something very intimate with a person that is very different. What does a white girl from West Virginia who loves to draw have in common w/ a black guy from West Philly who is locked up for murder? As we worked on drawing portraits of each other and talked about Robert's death, our connection was pretty strong. I'm thankful to God that we met so that I can bring in these pictures of his friend from the outside. The juvenile said, "Two of my boys have been shot since I've been locked up. I feel like I'm hiding from death in here." He's 17.

Here's the poem:
At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
That, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration, do the next thing.

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering by thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance, be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons, do the next thing.

Author Unknown


chanchanchepon said...

You are doing great work michaelanne!!!

Jessie said...

I love these meeting places, Missa:
the poem from Mom, the life and loss that are in you meeting face-to-face the life and loss in the 17-yr-old in the jumpsuit. Reminds of that Buechner: our calling is where our deepest gladness and the world's deepest hunger might meet...any which way you turn it, we got to go deep.
I love you,