My favorite childhood concept was the do-over. Whether shooting hoops or swinging a baseball bat, sometimes I needed a second chance. Maybe a third or fourth!
Adults, however, are less receptive to the do-over, which saddens me, especially when people are trying to put their lives back together.
Recently at my church, we welcomed guests from Benevolence Farm in neighboring Alamance County, “where second chances grow naturally.” On the thirteen-acre farm, employees produce candles, soap, and other body care products. The goals are life-changing: “To create a more equitable, just, and nurturing world for women and the communities they transform.” Benevolence Farm provides housing and employment for women returning from incarceration. It’s one of the only programs of its kind in the state.
Benevolence Farm not only helps individuals through their programs but also advocates for legislative change. Second Chance Lobby Day highlights reentry issues for the formerly incarcerated. Citizens approach our North Carolina lawmakers with their stories in hopes of “removing barriers to productive citizenship for individuals with criminal records.” No one gets a complete do-over, but people do want a second chance.
I’m reflecting on second chances during the Christmas season when my faith talks about a young woman who, in her time and culture, faced criminal prosecution for being pregnant and unmarried. She might have been stoned to death.
But Mary received the benefit of the doubt from her fiancé, Joseph, and even more support from her cousin, Elizabeth, who housed and sheltered her for three months. Readers are likely more familiar with the story of the nativity, yet the shocking aspects of the story have softened over time with idyllic children’s plays about a warm, cozy barn. The outrageous truth is that a woman in labor was left to fend for herself. She was treated the same as the livestock. Tragically, some women at Benevolence Farm tell stories about how our modern society’s treatment of those recently released from prisons and jails is not much better.
Benevolence Farm promises, “We believe that we are more than our worst mistakes.” People of diverse backgrounds and experiences can unify and rally behind this statement. As a person of faith, I believe the message of the holiday season is about second chances and communities working to support one another.
Second chances are also for the greater good. After all, we never know how one mother might change the world.