Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Simple Acts of Kindness

Lewis Lawes became the warden at Sing Sing Prison in 1921. At that time, no American prison was tougher. But when Warden Lawes retired some 20 years later, Sing Sing had experienced deep cultural changes.  

Those who study correctional systems credited Lawes who was a champion of prison reform.  But when he was asked about the humanitarian transformation, he said, "I owe it all to my wonderful wife, Catherine, who is buried outside these prison walls."

Catherine Lawes was a young mother with three small children when her husband became warden. From the beginning people cautioned her against setting foot inside the dark and violent prison walls. Their warnings didn’t stop her.

When the first prison basketball game was held, Catherine was there, walking into the gymnasium with her three beautiful children. To the horror of many, she and the children sat in the stands with the most dangerous criminals in our country.

Catherine’s resolute attitude was, "My husband and I are going to care for these men, and I believe they, in turn, will take care of me and my children."

She insisted on getting acquainted with the inmates. When Catherine discovered one convicted murderer was blind, she paid him a visit. Holding his hand in hers she asked, "Do you read Braille?"

"What's Braille?" he asked. Catherine spent hours teaching him to read.

Later when she discovered a deaf-mute at Sing Sing, she went to school to learn sign language and taught it to the prisoner.

Many said that Catherine Lawes was the embodiment of Jesus, and that He came alive in Sing Sing during the sixteen short years she was there.

Jesus taught that kindness matters to God. “Come… inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me… when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matt 25:34-36, 40)

The Kingdom of God is not our reward for attempted righteousness, but for simple, basic acts of kindness. No pomp. No plaque. No applause. Rather, the King of the Universe watches each of us for little moments of selfless service. We are measured by our spontaneous response to those He places in our lives.

It is not so much wrong-doing that evokes censure, but our utter failure to do good. The sin of omission is much more serious than the sin of commission. He watches us for genuine kindness.

In 1937, Catherine Lawes died of hypothermia after a fall. Her bereft husband wasn’t at work the next morning. Instantly the entire prison knew something was wrong.

The following day her casketed body was resting in their home near the prison when the acting warden was walking the perimeter fences. He was shocked to find a large crowd of Sing Sing’s toughest, hardest criminals gathered at the prison’s front gate. They looked like a herd of lost sheep. Drawing closer, he witnessed many of them weeping anguished tears of grief and sadness.

That afternoon he quietly opened the thick, iron gate saying, "All right, men. You can go."  And a parade of 200 criminals walked solemnly to the Lawes home to pay their respects.   

We need to remember, our reaction to those who cross our path is our response to Christ.