Traveling Mercies

Traveling Mercies

With 5 days and 385 miles under my belt, this week has been filled with traveling mercies, beginning with the small but interested group of people I met with on Tuesday in Westminster, MD. Fran Nyce from the Westminster Church of the Brethren came, since the previous evening’s event there had been canceled. Fran’s affirmation and enthusiasm for the message of restorative justice was such a lift.

Afterward, late afternoon sun lit Maryland’s rolling hills and snow-clad horse farms as I made my way south to Staunton, Virginia. What sweet relief to arrive at my friend Marion’s hilltop cottage in the country, where Marion and her animal menagerie greeted me enthusiastically (a few of them are pictured above, including “Barack O’llama”, the goats: Gracie and Jody, and a cat named Bubba Bad Boy. She also has another cat named Putty, and 2 dogs, Lakota and Etta James). A loaf of crusty herb bread and some red wine from her kitchen, combined with the leftover chicken, artichokes and spinach dish Pam sent with me made for a fine late-night supper for the two of us.

Wednesday was a restful day, spent mostly at Blue Mountain Coffees on Byers Street in Staunton, amid the ambience of weathered wood, old bricks and local artwork. Great coffee, an asiago bagel with homemade hummus and a chewy peanut butter cookie fueled me through the afternoon.

Then it was on to meet Marion, Jane and Lallon for a delicious dinner at Taste of Thai in Harrisonburg where we lingered and laughed for hours over steaming dishes of Praram Curry, Fresh Asparagus Saute with Beef in Garlic Sauce, Pad Kha Na, and Panang Curry.

As if we weren’t stuffed enough, Jane suggested going for late-night tea at Earth & Tea Cafe, where I’ll be doing a book-signing on Saturday.

The golden walls were adorned with richly colored tapestries, lit by multi-colored Chinese paper lanterns – very Middle Eastern/Asian chic. I paid little attention to the red fabric box on the table, assuming it was part of a ceremonial presentation of the pot of lemon ginger white tea we’d ordered. Finally, when they apparently couldn’t stand my oblivion any longer, Marion announced that the box was for me, and she, Lallon and Jane proceeded to fill it with little gifts they’d hidden in their purses and coat pockets: chocolate, music, cards, poetry, books, charms and talismans for luck, a beautiful pottery candle holder, a little cutting board Marion had made from hickory wood (perfect for late night snacks of cheese and crackers), and twinkling LED lights to hang above my bed. What beautiful, generous, thoughtful friends. I am so grateful and blessed. When Marion and I got back to her place, she helped me get the van “tricked out” with all of these gifts, which added color and life to my little home-on-wheels.

Thursday was action-packed, as I spoke to two groups of bright, curious young women at Mary Baldwin College, whose insights and tough questions energized me. Then I drove across Afton Mountain to Charlottesville for an evening gig at St Paul’s Episcopal Church. My friend Cass had secured a beautiful room for the event there, with a soaring ceiling and high, arched windows overlooking the snowy woods. She laid out a spread of gourmet snacks and drinks, set up chairs and a book signing table, and welcomed people as they arrived, making it all look effortless – a truly gracious event “host.” After I shared some of Marie’s stories with the group, we had a rich dialogue about crime and justice, and heard from several in the group about some of the good work happening locally through several churches and non-profit organizations.

In an effort to “pay forward” some of the traveling mercies bestowed on me this week, I ask that readers offer up prayers for people I’ve met in the past few days, including:
• the two young women who courageously shared their stories of their own parents’ incarcerations and how those experiences have impacted them;
• the two sisters who just completed mediation training at Mary Baldwin, who told me of their passion for restorative justice;
• the folks from Sojourners UCC in Charlottesville who are “walking the talk” of social justice by helping to raise a baby born to an incarcerated woman who was raped by a prison guard;
• the women working to establish Oasis Village, “an intergenerational community to enable hope and success for families who have been impacted by the incarceration of one (or more) of its members”;
• and B., the mother who told me of her struggles in the aftermath of her son’s incarceration and of her son’s efforts to get his life back on track.

What mercies (traveling or otherwise) have been bestowed upon you recently? How might you “pay it forward”?

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: grace goes to prison restorative justice criminal justice book tour

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