Wednesday, February 27, 2008

EVIDENCE!

The next week was spent getting familiar with this new life I was going to live for the next three years. There were new rules (which tended to change almost daily) and new routines. Fortunately, the life I lived on the outside wasn't so very different.
  • remember to make your bed each morning before I leave--I can do that
  • go to breakfast and clear your table when you're done--I can do that
  • keep your cube clean--I can do that, though it is a little more difficult when you live with two other guys
  • keep your shirt tucked in at all times when you are on the compound--never been a problem for me
  • don't wear your headphones on the compound--not a problem since I don't have a radio and I can't afford one
  • SMILE at everyone you meet--I just made that one up...you get a frown or a cuss word if you look too friendly
  • check the "call-out" every day to see what appointments you have for the following day--this one took a little bit getting used to. I'm used to making my own schedule, but breaking this rule could land you in the SHU (special housing unit...or sometimes called the 'hole') for a few days

I met the dentist, who had problems speaking English...it was probably his Pakistani heritage and the doctor again. Even the optometrist wanted to see me, which was a good thing since the glasses that I wore into this place have a chip in the lens.

My biggest concern during the first week was to try to find a job. One thing about prison is that rumors run rampant. I think some people tells an intentional lie just to see how long it takes to get back to him as the "absolute truth." But, regardless of whether it was rumor or not, the word on the compound was that if you didn't get a job before your first team meeting, you would end up working in the "chow hall" for the first four months. That really didn't sound like all that much fun to me, so I started looking.

My first stop was the library and the education department. I filled out the form and included my background of 23 years as a professional educator. I guess that's not what they were looking for. It seemed they preferred to hire men who didn't have a college education to be the tutors at the institution. I didn't hear back from my application, so I assumed the worst.

The first weekend there, I wandered over to the Chapel because I had seen fliers that they showed Christian movies every Saturday night. As usual, I was the first one there. Soon, a tatted out Hispanic guy came in and started to set up the room. I offered to help and he accepted. I found out his name was Noel and he was one of the Chapel workers. I stayed for the movie and the free pop-corn and then walked down to the recreation yard. I was still wearing my work boots, but I was getting in the habit of walking in them anyway.

I started my first trip around the compacted dirt track and as I looked around, enjoying the warm summer evening, I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. He said I should check out the Chapel to see if I might be able to get a job there. I dismissed it at first, because the people I had talked to said no one gets a clerk's job anywhere when they first get here. So I put the thought out of my mind and kept walking.

The next day after Church and lunch, I wandered back over to the Chapel. I went in and just meandered about. If they would have had security guards, they probably would have tossed me out for loitering. The memory of the voice the night before came back as I walked in front of the office several times. Finally, I got up the courage to go in and see if they had any openings. As I entered the office, a young man in his 30's welcomed me and introduced himself as Bill. He asked if I was new on the compound and I said yes. I was getting ready to leave and then turned and asked if he knew if they had any job openings in the Chapel. I almost fell over when he said one of the clerks was leaving in a week and they were looking for someone and handed me an application. I quickly filled it out and when I got the the blank for "reference", Bill said I could use his name.

I handed him the application and walked out of the Chapel office, marvelling at God's grace for me. He had promised me before I came into this place that He would watch over me. It didn't take Him long to demonstrate that promise to me...and He continued to show me evidence of that grace and mercy in so many ways over the next three years.

1 comment:

Deb said...

I love this story! It's great to see some humor woven in also. I am so proud of you for being able to see God's grace in the midst of your hellish nightmare. I know that will carry you through as you cope with the challenges of your not quite free life now.