The Gift of Time

by Mylah Joven-Ching

christmas-at-tcj

“To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48)

Since 2011, my husband and I have been active in the Prison Ministry of SSAP. The Single Young Adults (SYA) Community, of which we are a part of, has conducted medical missions, sportsfests, movie nights, weekly catechism classes, annual Lenten activities, Master Chef cooking contests for the inmates of the Makati and Taguig City Jails. The once a year giftgiving during December 24 is the activity I find particularly special. Friends and family have at one time or another questioned our dedication to providing care and comfort to society’s “outcasts”. Why choose to be with these criminals when there are other less fortunate people more worthy of our time? My answer is always: “Why not? Who among us has not sinned? Who among us has not made life-changing decisions that have led to heartbreak and chaos for us and those around us?” The only difference between the prisoners and us is that they got caught. They are human beings too and are as deserving of compassion and a new lease in life as the rest of us. Everyone deserves second chances and each day that we wake up alive and well is a chance that God gives us to be better versions of ourselves, to make good use of what we have in order to serve those who are in need.

This is the reason why for the past 5 years, on December 24, instead of spending time with family or preparing for Christmas celebrations, we opt to give our time to the inmates. A lot of them have only us to visit them during this special occasion. Our 2016 visit was especially fulfilling because I saw some inmates who were there not because they were still doing time, but because they were merely visiting their old friends as they had already been freed! How elated I was when I heard them say: “Ma’m, nakalaya na po ako” Truly, I can think of no other way to celebrate the birth our Lord, Jesus.

This year, it will be no different. In fulfillment of the challenge to live in Franciscan Poverty, which is not about material deprivation, but rather recognizing that all good things come from God and must be shared with others, we will continue to offer our time, our talents, and our treasures to the inmates.

As published in the January 29 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

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