Better Days

Is there a balance of pain?

Do people with chronic illness, loss of the precious, or injustice in their lives get a break elsewhere?

We all face good times and bad times in life. Some have chronic problems, others have temporary, albeit serious, challenges. It’s hard to view the latter as temporary, however, when the consequences can stay with you for years, decades, a lifetime.

BalanceLife isn’t always fair, and you may be faced with more dark times than others around you. The balance, as I see it, is in part how those times change you and make you a better person.

Yes, I’ll say it, the people who have been refined by fire are better people. More compassionate, more accepting, wiser and perhaps, if they’re lucky, more content, regardless of circumstances.

But in the middle of the storm, it can be difficult to face the day when you know it will be a challenge. The choice to escape, in whatever way is available to you, becomes an overwhelming temptation.

Those escapes sometimes bring their own problems. Watching television instead of taking action might drag out the time you will be facing difficulties. Drugs or alcohol, well, I don’t have to detail what they can do to you, robbing you of everything you hold dear.

Motivation becomes its own challenge. The chipper platitudes don’t always work when times are tough. It takes experience to know there will be an end to the loneliness, fear and sadness. For me, the quotes that acknowledge my pain, yet hint (at the very least) at hope are the most meaningful.

It’s darkest before dawn.

Maybe it looks like you got more than your fair share of bad times. I can’t promise there will be enough good times to offset those days, but I do believe there are better things ahead.


We are told “life is good,”  “make lemonade” and “don’t worry–be happy,” but sometimes we have to acknowledge a sorrowful time in life. If you don’t do so, you likely are compounding the problem.

But once you do, you are free to do two things: address the pain, and truly believe the sun will rise.

It may rise slowly, but one day you will look up and there it will be, high in the sky.

That’s the hope of better days.

Image Credits: (Rainbow) © Pellinni — Fotolia; (Balance) © frender — Fotolia; (Balloons) © Bigstock

Raise the Level

Two years ago my church, in particular my priest, was fighting hard for hot meals for the inmates at our county jail. Up to that time the best they got was sandwiches, made with stale bread and what in only the loosest term possible can be called meat, such as bologna.

This wasn’t Oscar-Meyer bologna. It was institutional, and the packaging revealed it was a “meat substitute” just as the cheese used was a “dairy substitute.” This sandwich filler cracked and crumbled when you bent it. It was like eating cardboard.

Woman in jailInstitutionalization is intended to be separation from society, not a series of debilitating punishments that can affect your health and mental state for life. With that in mind, we sought to bring our local jail to its senses and feed the inmates something edible. Not gourmet meals, not specialty food, simply something edible.

Shockingly, we received intense and harsh criticism from the community.  My favorite was this, written in a review on our Facebook page: “these people should stop trying to change the world and focus on the Gospel instead.”

For anyone reading this not familiar with the Christian gospels, they tell of a Christ who reached out to the thieves and prostitutes around him, down to his dying moments. He didn’t say, “they committed a crime. They deserve whatever happens to them in there” as thousands in our community told us, in writing.

I recognize that different denominations and congregations practice their faith differently than I do. That diversity in beliefs and priorities creates tension as well as reasoned debate, and I won’t tout my beliefs as the Absolute Truth. But I do believe condemning someone to abuse and cruelty because they committed a crime is not a godly plan.

And malnourishment is abusive, to the mind and the body. I’m proud to say the Sheriff eventually relented and the jail now serves two hot meals a day, in addition to a cold breakfast. (Breakfast, it should be noted, was always a fairly decent meal in that jail.) When they make sack lunches for inmates on a work detail, it’s usually peanut butter and jelly, which I’m told (for jail food) is pretty good, too.

We now have a new sheriff who is quietly making improvements in what is known as the “worst jail in the state.” Previous sheriffs took pride in that designation. He doesn’t. He is raising the level in his jail, demanding the inmates be treated in a humane manner, knowing that ultimately, society benefits from such behavior.

Hope and Freedom sm2Eventually most inmates will be back among us, and if they come out of jail beaten down and emotionally battered, their ability to function well in their community is severely compromised.

If you commit a crime, you should pay the appropriate price. But jails are inherently bad places to be. We don’t need to take steps to make them worse.

Photo Credits: ©

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