“Yeah, sometimes the hardest thing for an ex felon to do is get his life back…when most people won’t let him.” he said.
“I worry so much that my son will be the same way. He’s got 5 years left and I just don’t know what to do. It’s got me worried so much that sometimes I can’t even get out of the house. I was just coming back from a night service and decided to stop here for a moment to get some of those juices in the refreshment area. It’s kinda like a routine I do, because my son always loved those juices.”
“I am sure your son will be fine.”
“How can you be so sure? I would have given anything to make that trip to Atlanta and just hear what Faithone99 had to say. I think I copied everything he ever wrote on the site, and I even emailed him a few times.”
“You did?” he asked with great curiosity?
“Yes. I told him how sad I felt when the site banned him, and I told him I was also disappointed that I could not be able to support him and his writing. I can’t afford his book, but I know there are people who could easily help him financially, but won’t. But some of them will be the first to ask him to give them help, while they sit back and do nothing for him. It’s not right.”
“Well, if you did meet him, what would you ask him”
The woman looked at him, almost with pleading eyes. She may have never really had a real opportunity to ask an ex felon a question that might help her and her son, and now, in the middle of the night, in a rest area parking lot, she had a chance.
“I’d ask him if God cares about inmates.”
He giggled to himself as he smiled at the lady.
“I thought you were going to ask a harder question than that.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“That answer is simple. Of course He cares.”
“How do you know? I mean, I go to church every weekend and pray for God to look after my son, and to keep him safe while he is in prison. But I worry so much that he might be in trouble, and sometimes I worry if he thinks I don’t love him so much because I just don’t have the money and…”
“Ma’am..” he interrupted
“Yes?” she said, almost ready to break down in stress.
“He’s gonna be ok.”
“But how can you know?”
“Isn’t that what faith is? To believe even when you have no physical proof? To trust that God will do what you prayed Him to do?”
“But he’s in prison.”
“And who walking this planet is perfect ma’am? We can easily identify inmates as the fallen, but in reality, aren’t we ALL in that same position?”
“I…well…yes I see your point” she said.
He got out the car to face the woman, who was now very interested in what he had to say. He needed to get her from panic to comfort to faithful, and he naturally did what he had cursed himself for doing only hours earlier in the day.
“Ma’am, faith is believing something will happen even if you cannot see it. Let me give you an example. When I was in prison, my mom promised to send me some money. The moment she said it, I had FAITH that she was going to do what she said. It didn’t matter what sins I had, mom loved me enough to send some money, and the moment she said she would send it, I believed that she would. I didn’t have it at the moment and I had no proof of it, but I just had faith that it was coming, so it was already mine.”
“But I just can’t afford to send my son money every month. Every other month I might be able to send him $20 or so, and I keep wishing I could send more, but I have so many bills that have to be paid. It’s so stressful wanting to help but not able to do it financially.”
“Ma’am, you’re missing the point. This isn’t about money. This is about faith that your son will be ok. Faith for you means believing that whether you send him $20 or nothing, God will look after him. After all, that’s what you prayed for, right?”
“Then start to believe that. You can’t pray on something then turn around and wonder if God will honor His word. I had faith that mom was going to do what she said; how much greater should that be of God? Even though I was in prison?”
“You are so right…Lord, you sound just like Faithone99, he even talked about something just like that. You ought to be there in Atlanta.” she said.
“Well, I was. I’m heading back home.” he said, as he turned to look into the night.
“You were there…at the convention?” she asked.
“Yeah, I was. By the way, you mentioned Faithone99, and that you emailed him.”
“Yes. My name was kinda like his, mine was Faithinson, and I used to always tell him that God was gonna bless him for sharing his posts on the prison site. He really was a nice person, and you could tell he had a lot of faith.”
He laughed at himself in extreme sarcasm.
“Well, there wasn’t a lot of faith today.” he said sadly.
“What do you mean?” she said.
“Never mind, just part of a long day I wish to forget. Ma’am, I better get going, still got like 4 hours before I get home, but let me give you something…”
He reached in the car, opened one of the boxes in the back seat and took out one of his self-published books. He stepped back out and handed it to her.
“Here, I want you to have this.”
She took the book and read the cover and was quite surprised at recognizing the title.
“This is that book Faithone99 was talking about. You bought this from him? I can’t take this, that would not be right.”
“Ma’am, I want you to have it, I got 69 more in the car,” he said, almost in defeat.
“69 more…wait…oh my Lord…YOU are Faithone99??”
“I can’t believe I’ve been talking to the one person that has helped me so much since my son has been in prison. I owe so much of my sanity to you. I prayed that the Lord would bless you with the support you needed to keep writing, I always include you in my prayers,” said the woman as she instinctively gave him a most warm and welcome hug.
“Thanks, that means a lot. But I want you to keep it.”
“But I can’t pay for it…”
“I was selling it to you, I was giving it to you.” he said.
“But you have to have something. I have a couple of dollars in my car, I was going to buy some juices anyway, you can have that…”
“No ma’am I won’t take your last few dollars. It’s on me, honest.”
“Please, give me a chance to give you something. I can’t afford to do a lot of things, but somehow I believe that God gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet a person that could really help me, and the least I can do is give you a couple of dollars. It would mean so much to me.”
“But what of your juices?”
“I’m not going to die of thirst if I don’t get juices tonight. And to be able to get your book in exchange of a couple of drinks is a very fair exchange. Please let me give you something.”
“I… I’d feel bad taking your money.” he said, embarrassed.
“You’re not taking my money…I’m giving it to you.”
“Well, if it makes you feel better…I wish I had the same luck at the convention center today.” he said.
“Is that why you were crying? Didn’t sell enough books?” she said
“Worse than that I am afraid. I spoke for 2 hours, answered everybody’s questions but not one person bought a book. In fact, people bought those other prison books by authors that weren’t even there. I gave those people everything I had and got nothing in return. I took 70 books, and here I am with 70... Well, 69 now.”
“And you feel like God let you down?”
“Yeah…” he said with his head down. “I believed that if I could just have some faith, then there would be some people out there that could help me do more for those with loved ones in prison. Millions of people have a loved one in prison, and they all have questions. Heck, the prison support site I was banned from claims to have over 50,000 members. You know yourself that most of my posts were heavily read. How can I contribute so much, sow so much in helping people, but not get any returns?”
The woman went to her car, took two dollars out and came back to him. She gently placed those two dollars in his hand.
“It’s not much, but trust me, I have never been more thankful to give someone money as I am tonight. You told me just a moment ago that faith is believing when there is no proof. You helped me to see that tonight for my son, and I want you to believe that for yourself.”
He took the two dollars and smiled. At least he made two dollars this whole trip, he reasoned, no offense to the nice woman.
“Thanks. At least I won’t go home totally defeated.”
“But you’re not defeated, not by a long shot. If what you are doing is a help to people, then you have to believe that God had a reaping for you, a blessing. God is not gonna watch you do kind works and not bless you for it? We had a sermon just tonight about how God blesses those that help the poor. Not just poor financially, but also the poor in spirit. How many people read your posts and sent you emails? You were the best writer on the site, so I know you got hundreds of emails and comments.”
“Yeah, quite a few…but it…it doesn’t pay bills.”
“But that’s where you have to have faith. Right now everything looks like you have failed. You write all these posts, you get banned from prison support sites, you write books that people are not buying, yet people all want you to give them more of yourself, while they sit back and do nothing. There are a lot of people out there that need your help, but many of them won’t lift a finger to help you, even if they had the means to. But God sees all that, even if you can’t. You simply have to believe that things will change, even if you can’t see any changes. You said as much about me and my son, so I am returning the favor.”
“Yeah…I kinda see your point.”
“But you were supposed to speak two days, right? That’s what I was told on the site.” she asked.
“Well…you can’t go home now. People are counting on you. They need to hear from you. Lots of people are relying on the hope you give them.”
“I know, but I really needed to sell some books, I needed to see that what I am doing can be a blessing to me financially, better than the minimum wage jobs I have now.”
“Don’t you believe God will do that for you?” she asked.
“I…I don’t know.”
“I know lots of people say God bless you a lot, but some of us really mean it. When I pray to the Lord to bless you for what you do for me, I mean it. And if so, then I have to have faith that the Good Lord is going to bless you because I asked Him to. You’ve got some blessing coming, but if you give up now, you may never see them.”
He thought about that…he knew she was right, but his day had been so depressing that it was hard to have any faith. He just wanted to go home and forget all about this.
“Please son, don’t give up on God…He didn’t give up on you, and as you said to me, He does not give up on inmates. If I can believe my son will be ok, then surely you can believe that He’s got some wonderful blessing for you. If you stay in faith.” she said as she held his hands.
A deep sigh as he looked at her.
“Well…I guess since my pen name is Faithone, I better show some of it to myself. You’ve talked me into it. I’m going back to Atlanta and get a room and try this again tomorrow.”
“God bless you. God’s gonna bless you. I know there are lots of people that may not give you so much as the time of day, but expect you to give them your watch, but you have to believe that there are people that will support you. Just be patient ok?”
“Ok…and the same goes for you. Your son’s gonna be ok. He will still have obstacles, but if you keep him in your prayers, he will be fine.”
The two talked for a few more minutes, before he offered to buy her, and him, one of those juices. They drank it as they chatted a few more minutes, and before they parted, she prayed with him for guidance and faith. She continued back to her home, empowered with the faith and hope she needed, and he began his trip back to Atlanta, committed to give those people his best, while having faith that his prayers for finances would indeed be met.
Where then does hope lie for ex felons…ultimately it lies in God, but in every day life, is lies in those who have read this short story. It lies in you.