As we sat there, I watched an inmate’s mother, son and wife waiting for the release of their loved one. While they waited, I overheard the son trashing his father for all the wrongs that he had done to land him in prison. “He’s never going to make it. … I don’t trust him,” he said. As I sat and listened to the young man, who was about my age, I wondered what would happen when his father walked out of the unit. But when it was the father’s turn to walk out, his son ran across the street and jumped into his dad’s arms. The reunion of a family after several years is beautiful.
After watching a few more reunions, we walked down to the bus station. If the released former inmate does not have someone to pick him up, he receives a bus ticket either to Dallas or Houston. So, as we walked the block to the station, I looked at the men’s faces that had no one to pick them up. Some of their joy at being released was stripped the moment they realized they had no one. I almost lost it. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to walk out of such a horrible place where they even strip you of your name and give you a number, and finally have freedom, only to realize that you have nothing.
At the bus station I held open the door, and an older man who had been released walked in. I smiled at him. He told me that was the first smile that he had seen in years. Again, I almost lost it. I didn’t realize that a smile could do so much.
Nina Monk, a student at Stephen F. Austin State University, is serving with Go Now Missions at the Hospitality House in Huntsville.