June 21, 2012
Thursday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #230: For Such a Time as This
At the GED graduation I wrote about in my last letter, I was approached by the principal in charge of the prison’s INEA program, the Mexican government’s high school equivalency examination and certification. He asked me to play piano for their graduation ceremony—which, you may recall, I played for last year as well. Mentally I checked my schedule (NOT!) and tried to not sound too eager to get out of a day of Pictionary, puzzles, drawing, and skits, also known as Cognitive Behavior Class.
The principal also invited Sister Peggy, our enthusiastic volunteer, and she decided to go all-out. She picked out a song, “One Moment in Time,” had a mariachi band singer friend translate it into Spanish and practiced incessantly until she learned it. I was coerced into accompanying her on keyboard and vocally, and we had a couple of fun practice sessions before the big day—which was today.
Besides the graduation march and performing our national anthem, I also played the Mexican national anthem to begin the graduation ceremony. All the graduates joined in and sang along with my sound guy, Juaquin, whom I’d roped in to sing the Mexican national anthem again.
Just as at the GED graduation, all the top prison staff members were in attendance, plus all the teachers and inmates who are tutors, besides around forty graduates. This being already my fourth graduation—no, fifth—in the year I’ve been here, a benefit is that the top brass knows me by name, a significant achievement for any inmate with no disciplinary history.
Everything went smoothly, and Sister Peggy received a rousing standing ovation for her beautiful song. The Mexican Consulate and his aide were in attendance, all smiles and very diplomatic, shaking the hands of the graduates who will be deported upon release from prison.
After the ceremony, I recorded light dinner music into the keyboard so I could enjoy the fruit salad and strips of chicken from Chick-fil-A, missing the days gone by when one of my brothers would simply take over for me, seamlessly. While enjoying the meal, the main principal at the prison came over to me to thank me for the music (and hug me, a definite prison no-no, but I didn’t mind). Ms. Carr is your typical church-lady Sunday School coordinator and a true blessing to me. She reminded me to draft the proposal to teach music under her leadership and then told me she’d made arrangements with a video production company to record our performance quartet, if I’d like. I’m not sure how great it would sound, but I’m fairly confident that none of the guys in my group has ever done a video shoot or made a recording of any kind. I immediately said yes for them—how awesome to continue to increase our reach for God while here.
I had an opportunity to speak with the Mexican Consulate’s aide, a young man in a suit and tie who reminded me of myself at age 20, when I had visited Russia. I complimented him on his sincerity and obvious care for the men and told him I’d observed the careful attention he’d given to the events, as well as his perfect responses. His gracious attitude and warm interaction with the prison staff and inmates showed a great heritage and upbringing; I told him he should tell his mom what a good job she had done.
I told him also that I could tell by his mannerisms and interactions with everyone that he was trying hard to make his boss successful and that I felt he would, because of his obvious humility, also make a great leader someday. I encouraged him to realize that God had placed him, as Queen Esther had been placed by God, in a position of authority “for such a time as this.”
In perfect English, he profusely thanked me for my kind words, shaking my hand several times with both of his. He came up to me later with the Consulate’s camera and said: “You have given me a gift. I would like to remember you and this moment. Please, may I take a picture with you?”
I thank God for any small opportunity to bless others. He is good! Thank you for praying!