July 14, 2013
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #286: Move with the Cloud
Picture yourself sitting at home on the couch in your living room the Friday during Independence Day weekend, just relaxing with your family. At exactly 1:00 p.m., the front door bursts open. “Sheriff’s Department. Pack your stuff. We’re moving you across town.” No warning; no provocation.
I have no idea why they picked me to move, but it felt awful at the time. I’ve been in that pod since I arrived at this institution on my birthday two years ago. I still have no “write-ups” or disciplinary actions against me, and I’m respectful to officers and staff. Normally, inmates are moved when they are a problem—or for convenience if we request it.
I did NOT request this move. I was so happy with Raphael, my new cellie, and we were anticipating riding out the remainder of his seven years together. But the option wasn’t for me to move with him—just by myself.
It was a good stress test for me, since it was so unexpected, and I’m grateful to be able to say that I kept a good attitude. It was tough, because I’d developed so many relationships with guys on that compound and in that pod—and now I was being asked to move as far away from them as possible, while still at this prison.
Changing to a new prison compound means I won’t have church services with the same group of guys, and I won’t be able to continue teaching the business and public speaking classes. It was a huge change I wasn’t prepared for, and I couldn’t see the benefit of losing all the traction and good will I’d carefully built up over the past two years.
I’m acutely aware that I am given many special permissions and privileges here, and I couldn’t imagine how long it would take for me to find myself back again. It’s not like moving across town. It’s like moving to a different state, starting all over again. But, I assured those in my pod that I would write them to finalize any transactions we had and instructions on what to do with the classes, which gratefully had just finished that week. I’ve written twenty letters.
I got all of my possessions loaded onto a cart—books, letters, art supplies, pictures, class materials, etc.—and I was out of the pod in about an hour. I didn’t even get to tell everyone goodbye, and those who watched me leave kept asking why I was leaving.
Out on the main walkway, I asked the inmate porter who was helping me move if he knew who my cellie was going to be, and he pointed to the guy walking in front of me with his stuff. I met him, a scrawny young guy who said his name is Green Eyes. (Yes, he does.) I observed that both of his so-called green eyes were now black and blue, thanks to his participation in a recent riot, which also gave him several broken ribs. Lovely. If I can’t have an actual gang member as a cellie, then give me one who used to be a gang member and still acts like one.
We rolled into our new pod to discover they were on lockdown, due to a riot the day before. Perfect. I was feeling right at home already. We were being moved in, from separate pods in separate buildings on a different compound, so that the institution could keep the troublemakers apart.
The very next morning, my first morning in my new pod, two guys got into a fight. I turned to the guy next to me and asked if I was supposed to fight someone. He assured me that the fighting wasn’t as common as it seemed to be lately. (In two years in the other pod, we’d only had that one recent fight, besides a couple of scuffles.) We’ll see.
My cellie told me he didn’t want me as a cellie until he realized how nice I am, saying, “I’m not a Christian, but I asked God to help me change my life … and look who He gave me as a cellie! I think it’s for a reason that we’re together, because I go home in 10 months.”
I’m blessed to be available for whatever God gives me to do. Thank you for praying!