September 23, 2010
Thursday, 9:30 p.m.
Letter #152: Signs I Need to Mature
Greetings! Ahh, much has happened this past week to be thankful for, but I think I’ll save some of it for another letter and give you an inside look at just how dumb prisoners can be, with a few stories of classic, everyday interactions with some of America’s finest.
I was serving a dinner that included cornbread this past week, and my job of passing trays through a small window (to 160 guys waiting in lines of 40 per “pod”) entailed putting a piece of cornbread on each tray.
Well, one big ugly guy whose face has that classic “Stranger Danger” look about it said something to me as I handed him his tray. Due to the racket taking place with pan lids and trays and nine workers talking loudly on my side of the window, I didn’t hear him. I realized what he said by his reaction to the tray, however, because he immediately started cursing. “So that’s how you’re gonna do me?” he yelled, much clearer this time, in volume but not thought.
I bent to the window and yelled, “What had you said?”
The big fella glared back at me, and pointing to the cornbread, said something about asking me to give him a “big piece.” He turned, clearly disgusted, yet obviously not clear of the fact that he is in PRISON, not Burger King, so he can’t have it his way.
I tried calling after him that the pieces are all that size (give or take a small difference), and that it was “luck of the draw” at my window—he gets whatever piece happened to be next on the sheet in front of me. I was blown away as he continued to curse me and all my living relatives all the way back into his pod.
“Wow,” I commented to the guys serving the meal with me. “He doesn’t get it that I don’t play favorites at the window!” Several commented right back that I just might want to, with that guy.
I’d nearly forgotten the incident by the time we finished dinner service. I picked up my own tray and then discovered I was being watched by my #1 Fan. In his pod behind thick soundproof glass, it became even more difficult to understand what he was so mad about, except that I knew “cornbread” when he mouthed it. He was highly agitated, so I thought showing him my small piece of cornbread would help. It did not. I made signs showing how small all the pieces were, but the charades just confused him, so he mocked them and kept yelling silently at me.
Then I made a sign he understood: I put a fist near the corner of my eye and twisted the fist, while making a VERY SAD face. (Please. Try this at home.) The universal sign for “crybaby” was followed by me pointing at him, which was not one of my more brilliant ideas, ranking just behind the Christmas headband with antlers and mistletoe aptly dubbed, “Merry KissMoose,” that gratefully never made it to the funding stage.
My special friend, incredibly, got even uglier. He flew into a silent rage, pointing at me, then pointing where our shared yard is, then slamming one fist into his other hand. His mouth was busy saying naughty words as I tried to look disappointed in his behavior. He was further emboldened by the fact that no officer was present, so he let me know in absolutely no uncertain signs that his finger would slide across his neck and crying like a baby me and him together piece of cornbread punch his fist into hand point at me.
Basically, my options at that point were: (1) Never go out to yard again or (2) Apologize for pointing out the obvious fact that he’d acted like a complete crybaby.
Back in my pod, as I reminded myself how awesome it is that I’m not afraid of anyone, no matter how big or ugly they are, God reminded me that He loves that guy, and I’d been a bit out-of-line with my crybaby charade. No arguing with that, so I apologized to the guy the next morning as I served him breakfast. He didn’t accept it, cursed at me again, and never apologized to me for anything. He just kept pointing at me with his tall finger. I keep saying “Good morning” to him, or “Here you are, sir,” or “Enjoy” … and I learned a lesson: no matter how dumb someone else is being, don’t get caught up in it—respond in a Christ-like manner EVERY time!
Every day, I get the privilege of sharing Jesus with someone, to help them grow more in Him, or that they would grow closer to finding Him as Savior. If my conduct isn’t always reflecting Christ in me, how will they EVER see Him? Oh, that I wouldn’t grow weary (exasperated!) in doing what is right!
Thank you for praying for me!