215 | Plaque Attack!

March 8, 2012
Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Letter #215: Plaque Attack!


Dear Family,

My teeth are so sparkly-white clean!! I hadn’t had my teeth cleaned in three years, so a checkup was a bit overdue. I had more plaque than an award banquet.

A while ago, I found out I can have my teeth cleaned once a year at our facility’s medical office. I put in a request a couple of months ago and got called in to the office today.

I never go to the medical offices for anything, so this was like a vacation cruise to me because it was so refreshingly different from my everyday life. I enjoyed the short walk in the sun, the empty waiting room, and the great attitude of the dental hygienists who treated me as if I was at a normal neighborhood dentist’s office.

Much of the cleaning was rather painful, since it turns out the state-issued toothbrushes and toothpaste have damaged my gums and teeth. Lovely. I braved the pain, careful to not flinch. The hygienist noticed the tears that involuntarily rolled out of my eyes, but I claimed they were just tears of joy from being around women for an hour …

I think she believed me.

In any case, she removed the plaque buildup like a housecleaner just after the college graduate finally leaves home. Now I’ve got the smile of a just-now-returned-from-war’s-success commander, though I’m like the dishonorably discharged veteran who has been stripped of his plaque.

A couple of nights ago, I said good-bye to a few guys I’ve worked with on their exit strategies and spiritual walk. Alberto (everyone calls him “Scrappy”) had met with both Phillip and me several times regarding his need for a personal relationship with God. He would listen and interact with us and then seem to be so uncommitted and undecided. It was frustrating, as Phillip and I both cared for him.

Then Scrappy joined my business class, and he began to learn how his dream of opening a restaurant could become a reality. He always turned in thorough homework and really grasped the concepts of ethics in business, social responsibility, and servant leadership, which we discussed in the first couple months of the class.

I was blessed to see his answer to this question: “How do you plan to lead and develop your team spiritually?” He responded that he planned to take his wife and daughter to church every week. He’ll stay in contact with me, he promised.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell these guys good-bye. In most cases, I’ll never see them again. When I’ve invested in someone, especially so that he’ll be prepared to go be a blessing to his family and his community, I’m glad to see him leave, knowing that first he’ll be transferred to a California prison for a short time and then he’ll be released.

I hope to hear that they’re all doing well, but my expectations have to be really low. It’s common for every paroling inmate to claim he’ll write or send a package or do that thing you’d asked him to do … and then nothing ever happens. Or worse, you hear he’s been picked up for another offense.

So far, I’ve not yet heard from even one guy who paroled and said he would stay in touch, etc. I still hope, of course.

The next morning I went downstairs to ask my buddy, Soto, something. He was gone. At midnight, he’d been told to pack all his belongings quickly, since there was room on the bus for him, too, to travel back to California. I’d known he would be leaving soon, since he paroles shortly, but they usually give you a week or two of notice. Soto never got to say his good-byes.

A bunch of guys were talking with his cellie, so I waited until they left and told him I was sorry his cellie had left. I could tell he’d been crying, so I gave him a hug.

He told me that Soto said to tell me good-bye, and I said I wished I could have hugged him. His cellie said, “Don’t worry; I gave him one for you.”

I’m just grateful to know that Soto made a commitment for Christ and that he now reads his Bible every day and plans to attend church when he paroles in a couple of months. Now I can just pray for these guys and hope that they apply what they have learned.

Thank you for praying!