December 1, 2011
Thursday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #201: I Must Be About My Father’s Business
I try to be very aware of how my attitude and character appear to others, so that my testimony is not diminished. I do my best to follow all the rules of the institution and be courteous with the staff. The one thing I don’t do? My job. Before transferring to Arizona, I was given opportunities to be a “porter” or staff assistant. I didn’t take the positions once I got busy with writing, college, or church activities.
Well, in Arizona, you don’t have a choice regarding jobs: everyone must have one, even if your full-time assignment is going to school. Because I’ve convinced myself that my highest and best use is doing anything other than washing bannister railings for $0.08/hour, I don’t do my assigned job. Granted, the pay is alluring and the benefits package ($5 co-pay medical and dental!) is outstanding, and if you wish to retire here, you have options (mostly illegal!), but even though they’d pay me for six-and-a-half hours of work every day ($0.52!) no matter if it only took me half an hour to do the job (I’m like a highway worker!), I still don’t want the job. So, I don’t sign in with my pod officer each day.
In so doing (or not doing), I risk being written up for a disciplinary, a warning of sorts that I’ve been grateful to avoid the past three-and-a-half years. Instead, I’ve let the staff know that I would rather assist them by tutoring other inmates or teaching a class.
Every month, I get a full paycheck (after restitution, $5!), signed off by my correctional counselor. And, every month, my responsibilities and the many joys, challenges, and privileges that go with it have increased. I’m grateful for the favor God has given me with the staff, as it benefits the purposes to which He has called me! A sampling from this past week for you:
I now co-lead the “Pre-Release” class with two others, both staff over 240–360 inmates each. I was asked to help once we reached the business section, as we focus on résumés, cover letters, and job interviews. (Besides being one of the few in the class who have had a real job—less than 50%—I’m the only one who has held job interviews and even hired guys with a criminal past.) The discussion group I lead in the class has spawned one-on-one meetings with some of the guys for further individualized attention. Thank you, God!
Three mornings a week I now meet with a consistent small group of guys regarding their exit strategies. We’ve worked on very practical elements such as repairing their credit report and finding a church home to the very ambitious such as preparing to enter the market with their own business. I’ve been blessed to be able to use a room that is quiet and private, and the guys I work with are not even from my pod—something I’ve never seen allowed either in California or out-of-state. Phillip assists me on Saturday mornings when his class is out for the weekend.
Additionally, I wanted to make large sets of copies of business materials for the guys—over 250 pages for at least five guys, 1250 total. The problem: copies cost $0.10/each. My case manager, one of the ladies I teach with, said she’d make the copies but had no paper. I had some sent to her from Office Max—thanks to my dad—and told her to keep the leftover paper, nearly 2000 sheets. She was so grateful, then she checked with a warden, and the paper had to be returned. However, the warden was so “impressed”—she told my case manager to tell me so—that I was wanting to make copies to benefit other inmates and their rehabilitative efforts that she let the chaplain know I am authorized to make as many copies as I want, using the institution’s paper and copier that the chaplain will give me access to. God is good!
Lastly, I just received a book sent to me by my twin’s mother-in-law. It is a book to help me train these guys in business concepts, and is absolutely incredible. The crazy thing? We can’t have hard-cover books, so I had her send the $72.00 book (384 pages, 11″x13″, nine pounds!) to Dr. DelSordi, the school principal, and he not only let me have it, he wants one to use to teach nutrition to the horticulture class. God’s favor is great!
Thank you for your faithful prayers!