September 22, 2013
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #296: Fashionably Late for the Party
Much like other large corporations, organizations, or institutions, the wheels of this prison turn slowly. I’ve become accustomed to not expecting much—things don’t happen when promised, as promised, or to whom they are promised. When safety and security are the top two priorities, every other concern takes a backseat, as should be expected.
This means that church services get cancelled. (Have you ever showed up to church, and a sign on the door says it has been canceled that day?) Classes get cancelled. (Have you ever tried to leave home, but the door is locked from the outside, and a sheriff stops by to say that due to a fight down the street you need to stay inside for the day?) After so many of these, you tend to expect the unexpected.
I’ve been trying to get last semester’s classes to have their graduation ceremony for a few months now. Because we lost our staff sponsor (the person on staff I interface with for supplies and scheduling), I had to set up a meeting with Chief of Unit Management Villa-Williams, a busy lady who has more important items in her agenda than to meet with me.
Many postponed appointments and unanswered requests later, I was grateful to get some time in her office with my unit manager, Mr. Cosby (black, but no relation). I’d sent the chief a typed agenda of our meeting, detailing my proposals, so the meeting went better than I’d prayed for.
Ms. Villa-Williams started off by commending me for running the classes smoothly, then said, “I really like these classes, and I believe in them. I want to make sure they continue operating here.” (She’s just accepted a better position at another prison, so though I’ll be losing an advocate, she has left systems in place to make sure the classes can continue.)
Next, she agreed to have the prison sponsor our awards banquets with pizza, cookies, and certificates for each of the graduates. She told my unit manager to make sure we had the paper necessary for copies and instructed him to get all the food for the graduation night. We chose Thursday night, September 19, which gave us all two weeks to prepare. Then she told Mr. Cosby to prepare the certificates for me, naming someone who could help him design them and print them. I agreed to handle the changes to the application and graduation night passes. Meeting adjourned.
Well, it wasn’t a huge shock to me when the day of our graduation came, and Mr. Cosby told me he hadn’t ordered pizza or worked on the certificates. I offered to create the certificates, and we postponed the graduation one week. I’d done a lot of work to prepare for the ceremony; including inviting special guests and making passes, but I knew the students would be disappointed. With classes that finished in June and July, they’ve been waiting for this moment to be rewarded for their hard work and accomplishments. But this is prison, and we’ve learned to expect the unexpected, right?
Not all of us have, apparently. One of my graduates made a big scene Thursday night, complaining to staff. The next day, he complained to several guys who told me about it, then went to the chaplain to complain. The chaplain told me how sorry he was that our event was postponed, and I just smiled and said I was sorry he had to hear complaints from someone who hadn’t learned to release his expectations to God and expect the unexpected. I do expect to discover God’s purposes in all this, and I’m just glad He’s in control.