Retirement gave Isaac Patterson, of Baton Rouge, an opportunity to give more time to "works."
"Faith without works is dead," he said, referencing James 2:26.
For Patterson, his faith played a role in his decision to become a volunteer for the Capital Area CASA Association. Court Appointed Special Advocates speak up for abused and neglected youngsters living in foster care.
"It's just one of the things the Lord has laid on my heart in terms of my passion for it," said the 63-year-old Patterson, who retired in 2015 from the chemical industry and wasted little time signing up for CASA.
Patterson is a CASA volunteer to two young men — a 10-year-old and a 17-year-old. Youths age out of the program at 18.
"I have no reason not to take on this role, to be able to help someone else, whether it's through the CASA program, whether it's from the kids next door, whether it's from a kid that's been incarcerated," he said. "We are our brother's keeper. Just because they're not part of my family, I can't say that I don't care what happens to them."
Patterson, who has four adult daughters and two grandsons, said faith and that brother's keeper mentality obligated him to try to make an impact in the lives of young people.
"I believe it's part of my Christian walk, for sure; I honestly believe that," said Patterson, a member of Star Hill Church. "I also believe it's an obligation from a Christian point of view … even sometimes when you can't. Sometimes, you have to make some sacrifices."
Any role he can play is worth the sacrifice for Patterson. He has been involved in other mentoring-type programs like Big Buddy and Boy Scouts and also has been active in school functions over the years with his own children.
"Some of it requires more attention than others. It's just a matter of what's the need and how much can you put into it," he said.
Patterson was raised in South Baton Rouge, graduated from McKinley High School and attended Southern University.
He said the CASA program gives him an opportunity see a side of life he hadn't experienced.
"I was fortunate enough to have both of my parents in a stable home environment," he said. "Many of these kids only have one parent, and usually it's the mother."
He's seen the "ugly side" in the lives of abused and neglected kids. He's heard some horrendous stories.
"It definitely makes you think that could have been me very easily," he said. "I'm grateful to God that it wasn't me, but at the same time, I know there's an obligation I have."
Part of that is showing the love of Christ.
"We say as Christians how much we love God," he said. "But the Bible also tells us 'you say you love (God), but you don't treat your fellow man in a way that demonstrates that.'"
And that's what Patterson endeavors to do as a CASA volunteer — not preach or proselytize but to show Christian love through his actions.
"Obviously, we're not there to change their religious beliefs," he said. "I think there is a little bit of caution simply because of our primary role. But our actions should speak volumes of who we are and what we stand for. I would much rather show you who I am rather than just tell you."
CASA volunteers have several responsibilities, including representing the child in court (not as a legal representative or social worker), working with the courts and making at least one visit monthly with the child. Volunteers also must go through a training session and background checks.
"Our primary goal is to stay in contact with the child," Patterson said. "Honestly, the ideal situation for us is that the child be reunited to the parent. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. … As a CASA volunteer, hopefully we can give them that stability. We give them that regular conversation; we give them that regular visit, somebody who, hopefully, they can grow to say, 'If I can't trust anybody else, I can trust my CASA.' That's the beauty of it."
Despite the responsibilities, Patterson enjoys the volunteer opportunity.
"It's one of the most rewarding experiences for me, especially if you can see that you are helping someone make an impact," he said.
Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.