243 | Watch Carefully

September 20, 2012
Thursday, 11:00 a.m.
Letter #243: Watch Carefully


Dear Family,

I like shiny objects, new gadgets, and deals you can’t pass up. (Remember the free vending machine I brought home, Daddy? More nickels fell out of it than that machine was worth: I made 65 cents.)

Well, recently I saw a watch I liked, the perfect gift to myself for my birthday in June. I traded the $20 watch I had for a $40 one, sold that one for $48, and with some carefully worked other trades, I bought it for $65.

Now this same watch can be bought at Walmart for $25, but it is nearly impossible to get here. It has an alarm on it, which smarter people than myself can use to set off bombs. I wouldn’t know how to make a bomb if I even had Internet access. Well, maybe. But we aren’t allowed to have alarms on clocks or watches that are sent in. To get one, you have to acquire it from someone who got his before the rule-change or had it smuggled in. (I won’t say how this watch got here, but the guy told me how. It rhymes with “had it smuggled in.”)

I was so proud of this watch! It has a big, shiny face; analog hands; and a digital insert complete with time, date, and even a stopwatch. It has a unique shape: a large circle, flattened at the top and bottom, made of brushed metal, and it sports a thick, black, leather-like band made in China (from artificial cows, most likely; I wonder what they sound like­—nothing like my nifty alarm, that’s for sure).

Did I already say I was so proud of this watch? Yes, I did.

I made certain that it was clearly visible to anyone I talked to, conspicuously lifting my left hand to my chin while talking, as if pensive, thoughtful. Of course they noticed! That was the point! I played off the compliments as if it was nothing big, and I rejected offers of $100 to buy it from me. I was infatuated with how powerful I felt with it on my wrist, only sorry the strap didn’t fit around my forehead, making it easier for all to admire.

Then I dropped it.

I don’t have plush carpeting in my bathroom accommodations, since Empire Flooring apparently doesn’t install next day, even if you do call “800-588-2300, Empire—Today!” What I have is embassy-grade concrete-bunker flooring that, I have discovered, is harder than glass watch faces.

My dreams of this totally awesome timepiece shattered as it was reduced to simply … a timepiece. The analog hands didn’t even rotate anymore. I said “darn it” more times than Genghis Khan would have muttered as head of his old lady Sewing Club.

I still used it for keeping time, but gone were the sudden urges to put my hand on my chin or point things out with my left hand. Now everyone didn’t want it: “What did you do to it?” they all asked.

“Not very much,” I’d answer. I’d treated it like the name of a guy I interviewed right after he’d won the World Series: Randy Johnson, casually dropping it in conversation, like that.

And then, two months later, a guy in my building said he could fix it. Suspecting he didn’t have a watch repair shop in his cell, I was skeptical, but for $2.50 I couldn’t pass up the deal.

Two hours later, my totally awesome timepiece was back! A precisely cut piece of CD case fit where the glass had been, and the watch looked good as new!

All of a sudden, I was showing it to everyone. “Look! My watch! Remember? It was broken! Somebody fixed it!” Even staff who had never seen the damaged watch got to hear about it.

And then I tell them why it’s so special: “It’s like me,” I say. “I had a good life that I shattered by my own actions. My pride was gone, and I was a broken man. But God has restored me while here in prison, and I’m just glad He can still use me.” It has become so much more valuable to me than just an arm ornament.

My watch is a daily reminder of who I was, and Who it was Who made me good as new. Thank you for praying!