Punitive versus Restorative


Recently, my life has been filled with recovery time. August is a busy time for parents and teachers. School starting and renewing routines take a lot out of us. August also happens to be the month that I begin searching for sponsors for the annual Autumn March for ALS. I have to take several days to recover from the bursts of activity. This affords me lots of reading time. I am currently reading four books as well as daily scriptures and reflections. At the Alley Casa last night we had a debate on whether to move a smart TV into my bedroom. Sal the ALS Gal, me, was all for it. I told him I could lie in bed and just watch whatever. Like most other Americans I am into binging shows, you know like overindulging. My husband reminded me by saying, “Sarah, why did you not allow the kids to have TVs in their rooms while they were growing up?” Needless to say, I don’t have a smart TV in my bedroom. It would keep me from a lot of productivity like reading four books at a time. So I am missing out on some great TV shows but I am also writing which is even better.

One of the books that I am currently reading has brought up the topic of punitive versus restorative justice within Christianity. God in the old testament is very punitive but always loving. The idea of doing something to receive salvation has been ingrained into us. Oftentimes we are too focused on the individualistic aspect of Christianity instead of the communal aspect. The Western culture we live in is so competitive. We want to say you are in and you are out. It is this way not that way. Our popular culture is feeding into the selfish individuality as well. You know it’s all about me. Just like Eddie Murphy has said before in his stand up routine, “What have you done for me lately?” Look at our broken justice system with overflowing prisons and jails. There needs to be a paradigm shift. There needs to be rehabilitation. Many of us have loved ones who have been a part of this broken system. Often times people come out of the system so broken they are not repairable. They sink deeper into debauchery. I fear it is just a way to separate people from main stream society and just throwing them away. I don’t think that Jesus ever threw anyone away. He was drawn towards the broken. My heart hurts for all of the broken that are living in cages. What is worse is they are trapped within a consciousness of defeat. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying let all the rapscallions loose. I’m saying that there could be rehabilitation and education and most of all love to help these hurting individuals. Kudos to my community for people and non-profits like Tiffany Boyd, Sue Ann Cloar, Judy Boehmler, Transitions, and Matthew 25:40. We are reaching out and try to rehabilitate with love.

Restorative justice is not a new concept. It is involving those that are betrayed with the betrayer. Working out a way to educate each other on the cause of the betrayal. Both sides work on a solution to help avoid further trespasses. It helps people figure out why they are doing things that are against moral precepts. It helps to build skills that many children are not getting these days because of our broken family structures. It helps to build relationships with adults who in turn learn forgiveness. These adults see how people become broken and immoral. I remember a principal who told me I wish I had more teachers like you who tried to understand where children are coming from each day. It would definitely be an eye-opener. He said that most teachers want these children just paddled but that’s only part of trying to correct bad behavior. After all other attempts are exhausted, then the paddling was a part of our restorative justice. I genuinely cared about each of those children. Rarely, was a paddling given. I wanted them to grow and to choose to be the good not forced into silence or submission. I rarely had a child that could not read my heart and try to be the best they could be. It’s about relationships. It’s about community. It’s not about groups or individuals who carry the right way to salvation. This is where we are broken in our Christianity. We are too busy trying to get on the right bus to ensure our salvation and we are leaving behind God’s chosen people: the poor, the addicted, the prostitutes, and the mentally ill. This is the short list of those left behind. We are not to gather on buses cheering and chanting our way to heaven because we made it. We are to be among all of those who are hurting and needy. There is no joy if there is still so much pain in our communities. To the least of these always enters my mind when I am rolling out around in my community. My mind is constantly whirling on the jobs that need to be done. I am constantly asking myself how can I help? How could I be the Christ within me to my little community? I want restoration. I know that I cannot eliminate all of the hurt, but I could help those that are on my path. Some may say “Bah humbug! Ms. Alley you are wasting your time and resources on all these losers.” (Front row I hope this isn’t you. The back row kids are a handful but we love them.) You know why I don’t listen to the naysayers? I have proof in my Catholic Christianity: The prodigal Son, the book of Habbkuk, Ezekiel chapter 16, and Jeremiah chapter 31:31. God wants us to love and restore each other. His love cannot be put in a set of rules and regulations. We have it within us. We just need to give it to others in our community. I truly believe this is what we are called to do before we are to enter into our next adventure with God.

Today’s reflection was quite an academic one. As I have said before, I am always learning. I am constantly seeking a deeper connection with God. I am trying to live in joy not fear. Last but not least, I am taking each moment as a gift. It is so exciting to be a light bearer. Today’s saints I read about were infamous. They both were huge sinners. One had a concubine, was a lawyer, and a slave to his flesh until he was in his thirties. He then had an Awakening. The other was an escaped Ethiopian slave who had a dangerous gang that pillaged communities. He fled into the desert and encountered Christian Monks. He was educated on the way, the truth, and the light. He had a change of heart. He still had a lot of anger. In one of his angry fits the Abbot took him to the roof top at dawn. He said, “Look! It takes time for the light to overcome the darkness.” Don’t lose heart. Where there is light there is always hope. Sinners do become saints. Can I get a amen back row?
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Light-bearing Gal

Quotes of the day:
“Go away and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”
St. Moses the Black
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
St Augustine of Hippo

Grapple

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Every day I try to learn a new word or expose myself to a random word. I started doing this a very long time ago. I remember reading a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt as a child. One of the things Eleanor did everyday was to pick up a dictionary and randomly shuffle through it and put her finger on a word. She would then use that word several times during the day. Thus, she added to her vocabulary. Today it’s rather easy for me to find a word of the day. Living with ALS, I have lots of electronic gadgets. One of those is Amazon Alexa. I just ask Alexa, “Hey Alexa, What’s my word of the day?” This week grapple was one of the words. It’s not a word that I did not know the meaning of but it is a word that has resounded with me this week. I even heard it at the Convocation Ceremony for my daughter yesterday. It was in Dr. Hass’s speech, the president of Rhodes College.

This past week has been harrowing and that is an understatement. This is the week that most college students take flight. They go to college to begin their new chapter. They leave behind the comforts of home. The times that seemed so aggravating are being reconsidered and light bulbs are going off in a lot of 18 year old students’ heads. They are beginning to understand that things don’t just happen. Parents annoyingly giving advice and doing all of the little things that magically happen in a household from keeping the bills paid to stocking the pantry packed with all of the best snacks. Granted, our little adventure trying to gather all of the necessities to help our little bird feel as comfortable as she possibly can should have began probably two months ago. Ah we have weeks, let’s just put it off for another day. As the time for departure crept ever so closer, we were in panic mode trying to get everything accomplished from paying tuition and deciding on which meal plan to choose and finishing learning modules that were required before she could enter campus and receive her dorm key. It had me grappling for my sanity. Needless to say, we were rolling down highway 51 toward campus while my little bird pecked away on her laptop trying to finish her module learning courses. Yes, she is an honor student, but boy oh boy, this past few weeks we were definitely learning challenged. We faced a learning curve together and hopefully next year this will all go so much smoother. Hopefully, there will not be much grappling next August when she returns to school.

My little bird is grappling, too. She has been in her new nest for the last two nights. She is surviving on black coffee with no creamer or sugar because yes you guessed it was overlooked. She is desperately searching for her group. She is grappling desperately. When you open up your phone and the text from your daughter says “I’m so lonely” your heart moves to your throat and forms a huge lump. What can you do or say to help your sweet little bird to be brave? First, you say a prayer. You asked God to give you the words. You know what? He does. It has to be from God because I couldn’t make this stuff up. Saturdays I spend studying the gospel for Sunday service. I teach the high school students so I want to be prepared and use the gospel within the lesson.

Here is part of what I read:

Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: “My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.” Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.

Jeremiah was cast into a cistern into the muck. He was stranded, away from every comfort he had ever known, and left to die. I’m sure my little bird felt like Jeremiah when we left her. It was so hard for her to feel Jesus. Where was her Ebed-melech? As I typed positive messages I urged her to look around whatever she was at her PA group tonight and find more Ebed-melechs. I assured her they were there. They may not be similar in dress, ethnicity, or gender but they were there for her to discover. She will create with the help of God a new community or family circle. She’s always been such a shy bird with strong morals. She has always been mature for her age as well. I chuckled because I have always called her a granny. By the end of our conversation, she was ready to step out there and be brave. She said, “I am going to find people who like me for me. I am valuable. I can live my Faith. Come Holy Spirit, Let’s do this!” And I breathed a sigh of relief. I had got the words that she needed to hear. Of course, it was more than just the Bible verse. It was a lifetime of learning how to be myself as a Catholic Christian woman in the world. I am still a work in progress just as she is. But thanks be to God that He gives me the words and wisdom to help my precious daughter.

I know a lot of parents right now are grappling. Their nest at home maybe empty or have a few little birds left, but one thing is for sure if you look for your strength in the right places everything is going to be all right. I didn’t say you wouldn’t miss your birds like crazy and even shed tears often. I just say that the arrow from your bow will travel straighter if you have a bow created with the love of God. Those type of bows have a stupendous strength filled with morals, principles, and love. It will give them the accuracy and speed to hit the target of their goals they create for their lives.

Here’s what I have learned:
Complete your financial counseling early in the summer before the few weeks before classes begin.
Make list and do research of what not to take to college.
Find top ten lists of the essentials for college early and not two weeks before leaving; purchase them in a timely matter.
Be positive always even when you want to grapple them around the neck.
Be brave when you say goodbye even though you your heart is shredding inside of your chest and you are leaving a piece of it there.
Each time you think of them, whisper a prayer. I promise it is heard. Remember that birds are made to fly.

Sal the College Mom Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:

This quote reminded me of the speech made by the president of the college. We are all community.

“I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves.”

—St. Alberto Hurtado

“Walk your faith. Live it the way it should be lived. If you do you will march closer to the ideals of Rhodes College. Our Catholic faith is inclusive not exclusive.”
Sarah Anderson Alley