A Christmas Gift in Prison

Some years ago I was asked to preach to the inmates in the state prison. Seated on the platform with the Warden, I watched the men march in – 700 of them, both young and old. Among them were 76 “lifers,” who were there for the crime of murder.

I arose to preach after the singing was done, but I wept instead and could hardly speak. Disregarding the rules of the prison in my earnestness to help the men, I left the platform and walked among them, taking one, then another by the hand and praying for them. One man, who was there for murder, seemed marked by sin’s blighting curse more than his fellows. His face was rigid and scarred with the marks of sin. I placed my hand on his shoulder and wept, and prayed for him and with him.

When the service was over, the Warden said to me, “Well Kain, do you know that you have broken the rules of the prison by leaving the platform?” “Yes Warden,” I replied, “but I can never keep any rule while preaching, and I wanted to pray with the men and tell them of the love of Jesus Christ, the Savior.” “Do you remember,” said the Warden, “the man at the end of the line in lifer’s row, whom you prayed with? Would you like to hear his story?” “Yes,” I answered gladly. “Well, here it is: Tom Galson was sent here eight years ago for murder. He was one of the most vicious characters we had ever received, and, as was expected, gave us a lot of trouble. Six years ago on Christmas Eve, duty compelled me to spend the night at the prison. As I left for home the next morning, I thought I saw somebody in the shadow of the prison wall. I stopped for a closer look and saw a wretchedly clothed little girl holding a small parcel. Wondering who she was and why she was out so early in the morning, but too weary to care, I hurried on toward home. But I soon realized that I was being followed, and when I stopped and turned around, I saw this same little girl standing before me.”

“What do you want?” I asked sharply. Said she, “Are you the Warden of the prison, Sir?” “Yes,” I answered, “who are you and why are you not at home?” “Please Sir,” she replied, “I have no home. Mamma died two weeks ago in the poorhouse and she told me just before she died that Papa was in prison. Please, can’t you let me see my Papa? Today is Christmas and I want to give him a present.” “No,” I replied gruffly, “you will have to wait until visitor’s day,” and started for home. I had not gone very far when I felt a tug on my coat and a pleading voice said, “Please don’t go.” I stopped again. With teary eyes and emotional voice she said, “If your little girl was me and her Mamma had died in the poorhouse and her Pa was in prison, and she had no place to go and no one to love her, don’t you think she would like to see her Papa? If it was Christmas, and if I was the Warden, and your little girl asked me to let her see her Papa to give him a Christmas present, don’t you think I would say yes?” By this time there was a great lump in my throat and my eyes were full of tears. “Yes, I think you would,” I replied, “and you shall see your Papa.”

We went to my office. I sent a guard to bring Galson from his cell. When he entered my office and saw his daughter, he was angry and snapped out, “Nellie, what are you doing here? Go back to your mother.” “Please Papa,” sobbed the little girl, “Mamma’s dead, and before she died she told me to take care of little Jimmie because you loved him so, and she also told me to tell you that she loved you. But Papa, Jimmie died too and now I’m all alone, and today is Christmas, Papa, and I thought maybe, as you loved Jimmie, you would like a little Christmas present from him.” She then unrolled the little parcel she had and took out a little curl of hair. As she put it in her Papa’s hand, she said, “I cut it from dear little Jimmie’s head before they buried him.” By this time Galson was sobbing like a child, and so was I. He picked up his little girl and hugged her with great emotion. I left them alone for an hour in my office, and when I returned Galson looked at me and said, “Warden, I don’t have the money. For God’s sake, don’t let my little girl go out in the bitter cold with that thin dress. Let me give her my coat. Please, Warden, let me cover her with my coat.” Tears were streaming down the face of that hardened man. “No Galson,” I said, “keep your coat. Your little girl shall not suffer. I’ll take her to my home and see what my wife can do for her.” “God bless you,” sobbed Galson. The little girl remained in my home for a number of years and became a Christian. Tom Galson also became a Christian and gave us no more trouble. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When I visited the prison a year ago the Warden said to me, “Kain, would you like to see Tom Galson, whose story I told you a few years ago?” “Yes, I would,” I replied. We went down a quiet street and knocked on the door of a neat house. A cheerful young woman greeted the Warden with the utmost cordiality. We went in and the Warden introduced me to Nellie and her father, who, because of his reformation, had received a pardon and was living a Christian life with his daughter, whose little Christmas gift had broken his hard heart. – Condensed and revised

No matter who you are, Christ can change you!

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