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THE STORY OF CATHERINE LAWES


"Don’t set foot in the prison," people told her, but Catherine Lawes, whose husband was the warden at Sing Sing in 1921, went anyway. The first time there was a prison basketball game, she went, 3 daughters in tow and sat in the bleachers with the inmates.


When she heard that one convicted murderer was blind, she taught him Braille so he could read. Upon learning of inmates who were hearing impaired, she studied sign language so they could communicate. For 16 years Catherine Lawes softened the hard hearts of the men at Sing Sing. In 1937, the world saw the difference real love makes.


The prisoners knew something was wrong when Lawes didn’t report to work. Quickly the word spread that Catherine had been killed in a car accident. The following day her body was placed in her home, 3/4 of a mile from the prison. As the acting warden took his early morning walk, he noticed a large gathering at the main gate. Every prisoner pressed against the fence, eyes awash with tears, faces solemn; no one spoke or moved. They’d come to stand as close as they could to the woman who’d given them love.


The warden made a remarkable decision. "All right, men, you can go. Just be sure to check in tonight." These were America’s hardest criminals. Murderers. Robbers. These were men the nation had locked away for life. But the warden unlocked the gate for them, and they walked without escort or guard to the home of Catherine Lawes to pay their last respects. And to a man, each one returned.


We’re reminded, what can happen, when love is lived out and when the words of Jesus are taken seriously.


(From a sermon by Bret Toman, Power to Live the Golden Rule, 1/3/2011)

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