When men and women are trying to conquer addiction — and all its bad judgments, bad actions and bad outcomes — a punch bowl and urns of coffee are all you will find at the Christmas party bar.
The food, though, matched any Noel noshing. There was the mandatory sausage and cheese, but also chicken wings, meatballs, stuffed mushrooms, and freshly baked desserts.
A royal feast compared to their recent prison cuisine.
After eating, how do you entertain 20 former inmates, users, liars and thieves? Maybe a Bible game will get the wingding swinging.
They had to guess a book of Scripture and then recite a favorite passage to win a prize. Their quotes were not the old standbys like John 3:16’s “For God so loved the world ...” or Psalm 23’s “The Lord is my shepherd.”
No, they quoted from Hebrews, Ecclesiastes and Matthew.
A man offered “Iron sharpens iron.” He paused and then recited Proverbs 27 through “so a man is tested by the praise he receives,” with his audience softly chanting, “Go. Go. Go.”
One young woman, a newbie in our program, said only, “And Jesus wept.”
She received the loudest cheer from her peers. Their own journeys to recovery, and for some, their repeated attempts, all began there.
We cleared the center of the room. Our emcee brought out a ball, nearly two feet in diameter, filled with prizes suspended in miles of plastic wrap.
The object was to unroll as much as you could before the previous player threw doubles with a pair of dice.
Of course, you had to wear big oven mitts.
It was wild and funny. What amazed me was the competitive intensity for pens, lighters or a cheap stocking cap.
Still, when it was someone else’s turn, they spurred their opponent with shouts and groans.
We gave our gifts to the residents, most of which were much-needed clothes. One woman, urged to don her tunic sweater, gave a sprightly wiggle as she turned and looked over her shoulder.
Referring to 1 Timothy, our director playfully admonished, “Women should adorn themselves ... with modesty and self-control.”
To which our fashion model replied, “I’m getting there, but I’m not Paul. My conversion takes time.”
At the end, a woman, maybe in her early 30s, hugged and thanked me. With tears glistening on her cheeks, she said, “I haven’t had this kind of Christmas in 20 years.”
No child should have to wait that long.