There, But for the Grace of God


My eyes slid past the title, Inmate Roster – June 7, like skidding on icy concrete steps. The sterile article offered no traction, restored balance, or otherwise invited me to read.

Still, I found myself, glancing through the names. Seeing none I recognized, I sighed with relief. But, how would I have reacted at spying a former class mate, or neighbor? Would past memories have swept through my mind, followed by sorrow and pity?

Having done stupid things, were there times when I might have landed on that list? Teenagers thrive on thrills, with dares demonstrating courage and belonging, maybe slipping on a thong under my skirt in a store, or sneaking into a bar, underage, not to mention that infuriating stop sign provoking us like waving red flags before bulls.

True, nothing happened. But, if that store manager had clamped his strong hand on my wrist, or a fight had erupted in that little bar, followed by an ID check, or a car broad-siding me, life would have taken a different course. The legal machinery would have crushed and ground me into fine dust. Although family would have bravely stood with me, I would have felt both shame and defiance at furtive glances and whispered conversations. Worst of all, anyone and everyone might have seen my name, had they chanced to look. No matter how fast I had run down the street, scooping up papers after the paperboy, others would have read the list. And I would lived in fear of discovery.

Suddenly, with those names becoming real, flesh and blood people, empathy welled up. Some might find themselves unjustly on that list. Others never in trouble before, might have given into impulse, while, for others, luck might have finally run out.

Does this little article motivate me to go forth and sin no more? Maybe. But, with flaws plaguing me, nothing within me has power to change that. My best hope lies with greater compassion, and sympathy for those making mistakes. Am I not better served by loving the sinner, but hating the sin.