Christmas in Prison: Bears For Christmas !
I think of this more than anything during the Christmas season while incarcerated.
My first Christmas in prison my two daughters were ages 8 and 9. I was very active in their lives before I fell and we were very close especially at Christmas time. This very first year of incarceration they came to see me. “Seeing me behind razor wire for them would be harsh and sad,” is all I had going through my head. My wife and I had made the decision to stay together when I fell and see if we could actually stay together. I had my doubts but she insisted that I at least should see my girls no matter what. Now the big test was upon me on this very first Christmas day with them walking into a prison with all the razor wire only to see their dad in tan scrubs.
At the time I was at an old Alcatraz style prison with 4 tiers and a single hanging light bulb at each end. I myself was freaked out and all I could think about was my girls being freaked out to the point of tears. I dreaded seeing that as a loving father.
On Christmas I was called for my visit and it seemed as if I was going to be met with those scared and sad eyes full of tears. The moment I walked in the girls rushed me and were crazy excited, “Dad, we got bears!” I did not really understand right off but it sure didn’t matter. I saw Christmas excitement on their faces I surely hadn’t expected. That day happiness for me and my family was back in our hearts. “Dad they gave us bears for Christmas in the parking lot”, they told me.
I found out that day that Christmas can be alive and well no matter what. It prompted me to remember that I had spent Christmas away from my family one other time while serving in the Air Force during the Gulf War. My wife and daughters had sent a video tape for Christmas that made me laugh in another environment with plenty of razor wire there and it was good. Now in prison could it happen here too? Of course in could.
I keep Christmas alive and well the best I can every year now no matter how hard it gets. God has me with people with sadness in their hearts in need of joy. My wife and I have joy and it is in Christ. Never could we have been able to stay together these 33 years with 21 of them apart without Jesus Christ first in our hearts. My girls grew up visiting me in prison and we pulled it off. Both have become great moms themselves like their mom. I am a proud grandfather and to the family I’m “Pop-Pop.” I have done everything possible to always be supportive and encouraging to my wife, daughters, their husbands and of course my blessed grand-kids as they do me.
I pray soon I can go home but if not my goal will always be to try show others that happiness is alive and you can laugh again at Christmas. I love to volunteer for plays and skits in my church to give men a laugh at Christmas. If they can for one millisecond feel what stuffed bears did for a couple of scared girls and scared father put in a harsh environment, I’m there for sure thanking God.
I learned that the bears were given out by a local ministry who actually go into the prisons. I have had many encounters with this ministry through my 20 years of incarceration. And they have been instrumental in my Christian growth.
I will always know that God makes Christmas not us. He does the miracles and wonders that carry us through when we are hurting. Mine was two little girls laughing as I saw them that very first different Christmas and all I want to do every Christmas is make people laugh and know, no matter what, God is with us to fill us with peace and joy even in the harshest of environments.
“A merry heart does good, like medicine. But a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17: 22 NKJV