By Peggy Nideffer
February is the month when we place a dollar value on relationship. The Bend Bulletin reported in 2019 $20.7 billion had been spent on Valentine candy, flowers and food. 13,000 truffles were sold by a single chocolate shop in Eugene!
I had my valentine cards spread on the living room floor next to the list of recipients. As I matched the card with each name it took my mind back some 65 years to the memory of my second-grade class and decorating our shoe boxes with hearts, ribbon and lace. We’d place them on the windowsill to be filled with valentines sent by our classmates …oh the thrill of anticipation for the Valentine party day when we could pour out the contents and read the notes from our classmates.
I had carefully selected cards to match the personality with the message of friendship I wanted sent.
Here again, I was trying to send a message but instead of classmates, this list contained the names and SID numbers of Oregon adults in custody. I thought carefully about the message I wanted to convey. I wanted each person to feel valued and encouraged. I had been sending birthday cards over the past year or so and it was not unusual for an inmate to thank me and reveal it was the only birthday card they had received and for some, in their whole life!
When Visions of Hope visits each correctional facility the message we give is, “none of us needs to be defined by our past or held captive by past mistakes”. What matters is from this moment forward to live with purpose. God sees our hearts through unveiled eyes.
God doesn’t look at what people see. People judge by what is on the outside,
but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
I’ve learned a lot through the visits to Oregon Correctional Institutions and building relationships with adults in custody. It has deepened my understanding of a “heart to heart relationship” with God, when all the glitz and glitter of the outside world is stripped away, I see the depth of who a person can be. I get a better sense of how God sees us and desires to be our shepherd. I’ve come to appreciate simple blessings. The melody of a bird singing in a tree, the sound of a waterfall as it hits rocks below, the way the waves roll into the beach, the sunrise, a flower…. the list is endless. The simple blessings in life that go unnoticed in a busy world.
The bottom line is, when the inmates open the card I’ve sent, I hope they might feel a spark of joy that someone , who has NO OBLIGATION to, but CHOOSES to send a card to encourage a “vision of hope”, that they might experience God’s love through acceptance.
In return, my life has been forever blessed and I am grateful for this opportunity. We can be world changers. In whatever our situation or circumstance, we can influence the person sitting next to us or orphans in Africa.Would you like to help with the communications described above? Your story can easily be like Peggy’s. Do you have an hour to spare to change lives? Peggy and Lori would love to blend your talents with their communication endeavors.