Carly is a student at a community college, and her teacher wrote me this week asking for advice. Carly has a conviction for prostitution from over eight years ago. Yet to this very day most apartments, especially the ones she can afford, will not accept her as a tenant. For the past month, she and her two children (ages 6 and 8) have been living in one motel room. It has cost her $1,000, and she is running out of money. She does not have a job – the conviction also goes against her when applying for jobs because it is classified as a “sex crime” even though it involved consenting adults.
Wiping tears from her cheeks, Carly met with her teacher recently and relayed her deep desire to continue to move forward with her life. She has been involved with a faith-based job training program and now attends church regularly. She is trying to keep her life turned around, but it’s really hard when she has no money, little to no chance at affordable housing, and no job. Oh, and the unrelenting stigma of being a “sex criminal” with a sentence that seems like it will never end.
Carly’s story represents thousands, maybe even millions, of other single mothers trying to make it on their own, to turn their lives around and keep them on track for their children. Yet the overwhelming baggage of a past that won’t go away, a criminal record for which they have already paid their debt to society, keeps tripping them up, knocking them back down, and relentlessly shaming them.
We need people of mercy to stand up, fill the merciless gaps, with courage and conviction and compassion. Much like Carly’s teacher, right where you are, exactly where you find yourself every day, open your eyes, fill your heart with mercy, and you will see again.
And Carly will be there waiting.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14
Our Lord Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35