Tonight was my first time in Bible study at juvenile hall in Orange County. The building itself feels like an anomaly. Nestled next to a hospital and across the street from the monument to consumerism that locals call The Block, it often comes as a surprise to folks that the county incarcerates young men and women there. Even the street names speak to the juxtaposition–roads called Justice Center and Shoppertainment stand across from one another just a short walk away from the facility.
The young men that I met tonight were in their late teens, and they reminded me of the high school students I had taught during my first two years out of college–sweet and rambunctious and eager to learn. I know they show me a side of themselves that most of the rest of the world isn’t privy to, but that’s part of what I’m finding I like about spending time with them. These young men whom our culture dismisses, says are less than human, not worthy of our time and attention; these same young men are the ones who share their questions about God with me, who invite us in to join them in their curiosity about all things holy.
Open my eyes, Lord.
Help me to see your face.
Open my eyes, Lord,
Help me to see.
We sang Jesse Manibusan’s song together before we read the Gospel reading, and I felt so incredibly grateful for the young men sitting around the table. They teach me that God is big enough to reveal Godself to us in the most unexpected of places, if we have eyes to see.
Jen Owens is a co-editor of From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism. She will continue to blog about her experiences with the kids at juvenile hall for the remainder of the summer.