292 | Pod Jobs

August 25, 2013
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #292: Pod Jobs


Dear Family,

Do you ever wonder why something unusual happened to you, why that person is acting so strangely, or why you keep getting passed by or overlooked for something? Of course you wonder. The problem, I’ve found, is when we push to get the answer and find out something we wish we didn’t know. Ignorance really can be pure bliss.

I’ve never enjoyed finding out the reason something happened is due to someone not liking me. Let it be because of my lack of ability, my lack of qualification, my irreplaceability where I currently am, etc. But not because you just don’t like me! Yet I’ve been passed over throughout my life for that very reason:

When I was 19, someone took my confidence as cockiness; when I was 20, someone told me I was too enthusiastic, like a “puppy whose tail is doing a lot of damage.” Even back in first grade, I was given a timer on my desk so I wouldn’t take so long on the art projects: too thorough.

It is often difficult for me to put aside the comments as rejections of me, and instead focus the criticisms as a a valid critique of my character deficiencies. In the situations above, I had to learn to balance my character with humility, gentleness, and punctuality, a process I still strive to apply today, as the Lord keeps working on me.

My recent move away from my pod—“home” for two years—had me wondering “why.” In my opinion, I’d done nothing to deserve being moved without my consent, something that is normally done for those with disciplinary issues. Initially, my pod officer had said that “Unit Management” was responsible, but my unit manager told me he’d been unaware of my move. Once I came back to my unit, I kept asking around, and eventually I found out who moved me.

Nearly two years ago now, my pod’s correctional counselor and case manager noticed all the classes and programs I was facilitating and told me that instead of mandatory pod job of cleaning (like everyone else who isn’t either in Education or the kitchen), I could receive the $0.08/hour for a title they called “Pod Instructor.” I did that for over a year and a half, then was put in Education until they found my GED.

When I left Education, we had a new Correctional Counselor (C/C) in my pod, who was not familiar with my assigned job. After a month of work (the pod jobs take 15–20 minutes a day; I spend three to four hours a day on mine), he wrote on my paystub: “$0.00. Inmate refuses to do his assigned job.” Beneath it, he wrote that I would be receiving a disciplinary write-up. To avoid receiving my first write-up, I went straight to his office. He glanced up and dialed his phone, talking about me to the institution’s Jobs Coordinator. Awkward silence. “Oh, Okay. I see.”

He assured me there would be no more problems and that his staff would sign me in each day on my timesheet. I thanked him and explained that I had not intended to “refuse” to do my pod job. Rather, I had continued to do my teaching responsibilities as usual, not realizing the staff was no longer signing me in for it. My C/C just said it was my fault I’d almost received a disciplinary write-up. I chalked it up to a lack of communication on my part.

The next day, when inmates who had fought needed places to move to, my C/C “volunteered” me to move out to make room for them. Later, he sent word to me that it was due to this job situation that he’d moved me, and he didn’t want me to move back into the pod. Though it felt weird to not be liked or appreciated, I understood his embarrassment when I’d been probed right.

Since my most recent move, I’ve met with his boss, who assured me that they’ve got the situation ironed out now. In the future, I’m not assuming that everyone is aware of what I’m doing, since communication is better than moving again!