I am ashamed of how little I remember, in general. As it happens I am so distracted. Years later, it stirs in me. The memories of a boy named Jeremy. I don’t know if it was lack of sleep or the normal general stress of life and college. I have lost my notes and my journal but that is a small loss because I don’t think I ever recorded more than just the facts.
I visited a prison during my internship. I submitted paperwork to be authorized to enter. I had no idea I would see Jeremy. Older of course. I recognized him quickly but pretended not to. The stretched version of the troubled young man; I met on a church bus.
In high school and college I was very active in church. I helped out with the bus minister. Which, was bringing children and some adults to Sunday school, who did not have rides. It was a two-day operation. Saturday, teams visited everyone who was interested or a regular and make sure they were coming and on Sunday the buses did their thing, or tried.
The thing about baptist church buses is they had traded hands two or three times. I always thought about how bad they were but I never thought about the next people. I think it goes from schools to big churches, little churches, and then scout troops. What I liked about the bus ministry is you didn’t have to have talent and the speaking was never that hard. It was one part visitation but there was always a partner to do the talking for me. On Sunday, I got to church early to take off with the bus driver and I just had to hang out with kids. It still made me nervous. Everything makes me nervous. I could sit and there was a chance I could spend time with the cute girl and her strict family would be cool with it.
There was never a lot of bad kids. Maybe one bad kid and he would bring a rile-ready friend. That is church, though. They want the bad kids. They want to help them. Jeremy had an attraction for the line. A couple years can be a big age gap for children. One time, I and the bus driver had to get after him for being overly interested in girls who were around ten. He was fourteen or so. The thought still skeeved me out. Other than that, there was normal stuff like being too loud, rowdiness, trying to pick a fight with me, and messing with someone.
At the time, I was at the thought of get them safely to church. Church will get them in touch with Jesus. Then, God can help them. Simple. I wasn’t naive. I knew not everyone would fall in and some people would go every week and still not be a marching christian. That was just the cookie crumbling. I was told that he had a rough home life. People said his dad hit him. With those kinds of kids, a volunteer service can only tolerate so much before they leave him alone to focus on kids they could help. I believe that is what happened. Eventually, they stopped sending visitors and the bus didn’t pick him up.
It isn’t the cause. I know it isn’t my fault. I also know that a prison in a town of ten thousand isn’t the worst place to be but it still feels like a leap. It is hard to imagine what I could do to go to prison. It is hard to imagine a life where that would be inevitable. Still, I was faced with a person I knew, in prison and I didn’t think about helping him more than look to Jesus.
Our society isn’t made to help people. Let Jesus do it. Charitably the almighty’s son who is busy now making a home for the end of the world. The catcher for it all is, it had to be his decision. He was in prison because of choices he made. I am where I am, contemplating ghostly memories from the past because of choices I have made. We cannot change our pasts or where we came from. To an extent, we cannot change who we are but there is a choice in what we do. We can learn and grow.