Wednesday, February 17, 2010

#40 Prison talk: Refuse not sincerity (retro)

Prison Talk: Refuse not sincerity

Today is a nice sunny day, after the cloudy and rainy day yesterday, so I decided to take a walk to the park and get myself a soda. On the way, I was trying to think about what to blog about today. I had some ideas and was running it through my head, but I just didn’t feel that I wanted to really blog on them.

I wanted to blog, but if the subject is a burden, then I should not write it because I cannot put my best effort into it. On the way back I was thinking that maybe it just isn’t for me to write today, but then a second thought came to me…

Sometimes you have to be patient for something to write for, rather than forcing yourself to write. So I figured, ok, if I don’t blog today, no big thing. Almost as soon as I reasoned that, I saw on the street an old, rustly lock. You know, like the ones you used when you had a locker in high school, the ones with the key, not the combination locks.

I picked it up and slung it into the field as it landed with a heavy thud. It was about then that it reminded me of a situation I went through in prison…and I then had my subject for today.

This situation is a counter to anyone who tells you that everyone in prison are out to get you. This is what prisons try to teach, in fact they tried to tell me that. While there is a lot of truth to it, the absolute of it is not. But in this situation I am about to share with you, I am going to share the “Gemini” of sincerity. It can be misleading, but it can also be exactly what it is …honest sincerity. And often times we miss out on something because we reject it.

This takes place at Pasquotank Correctional, in Elizabeth City, NC. Actually, it STARTS there, and finishes in another prison, but I’ll get to that. Some of you may have purchased my “Grades of Honor” books, and read my first few months in prison, and have heard me mention this prison. I have yet to get to this particular part in my books, but I can share this with you guys and hope to cover this in future books.

I spent time in medium custody for awhile, before being “promoted” to minimum custody. I spent a lot of time on the Pasquotank “honor grade” and after hating it for awhile, was finding my comfort zone. It was a small camp, and it was becoming my refuge as I was starting to get comfortable where I was.

One day the camp brought some new faces to the camp, as transfer days in NC prisons are usually Tuesday and Thursday. It was hard for guys to get a transfer out of Pasquotank because most inmates didn’t like it here, one main reason was because it was a “card” camp. That means you are not allowed to have currency of any kind on your person. I had gotten used to it, but most people hated it, and the fact that Elizabeth City was on the edges of the state, right off the ocean, meaning travel for visitation for most would be a very LONG trip.

But as I said, I was doing ok.

Anyway, on one of the transfer days a younger guy was moved into our dorm. I looked at him and almost swore he looked like a guy I knew while in county jail. In fact, I was a hair away from actually calling the guy by that name, only to realize that was not him. But I could tell he was nervous about being there, not knowing anyone and all. I know what that’s like, I’ve been there…maybe I still was.

I decided to talk to him, which was odd because usually I let others start a conversation with me so that I am not intruding on them. But he was a little different, he just kinda looked like he needed somebody to talk to. So I made light conversation to kinda break the ice, and it didn’t take long before we were pretty decent friends.

He had gotten a job working as a janitor in the administration building, something I was doing before him, and he told me how difficult it was for him. Sometimes he just didn’t feel like doing it, but he knew that would be wrong. I tried to keep him as positive as I could, knowing what the job is like, and also knowing this guy needed some encouragement. Without knowing it, I was trying to treat him like my younger brother, even though he might have been 4 years or so younger than me.

We got along pretty well and I actually enjoyed having his company, but that would soon change. Because of some issues with a captain on the camp, and some words he said that could EASILY be misinterpreted as unconstitutional, I was being shipped from the camp. You have to understand how major this is, because inmates on Pasquotank almost NEVER get a transfer, and here I was, a guy who never asked for a transfer, being moved. Many of the guys I had gotten to know were just as floored as I was. The reasons for this transfer is a whole different story, one I have to share at another time.

But upon learning of my transfer in a few days, I told my friend, and he was kinda disappointed to see me go. In fact, I had several guys who told me the same thing. My friend offered me his lock, since he had two of them. He said I might need it on the next camp.

Now, to me this didn’t make sense. I didn’t see why I needed a lock. When I first entered the prison system at Craven Correctional, they issued locks. When I went from there to medium custody at Pasquotank, I had a cell so I didn’t need a lock. When I was promoted from that camp to the minimum custody camp across the field, I was issued a lock. So I saw no need to buy a lock.

I kindly declined his offer, and he kinda seemed hurt by it. He said something like, “I was just trying to help, since you helped me out by being a friend to me”. I knew he was trying to help, and I was quick to say that in very kind words. I really appreciated his offer, and I was glad to have made a friend in him while I was there. But I just didn’t think I needed a lock, wherever I was going. He offered it to me again, just telling me to just take it anyway, but I didn’t feel that I really needed it.

Days later I was shipped to another camp, in Columbia, North Carolina. When I arrived at Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, I discovered something…they didn’t issue locks. You had to BUY your own.

But I was broke, or down to a few coins in my inmate account. I mean, making $2.40 a week does not go far. Now I was concerned that in this camp, full of guys I do not know, and no security for my locker, I was afraid of someone stealing my belongings. It wasn’t like I had valuables, but my writings were in there and it meant a lot to me.

If I had not turned down the offer from my friend, I would have HAD one. All he wanted to do was help me, and I thought I didn’t need it. Now I regret not taking him up on his generosity. He offered it free of charge, and I still didn’t take it. Now I need it.

For a few days I was worried about that, and was afraid to wander too far from my locker. Being in a new place had brought back some of the burdens I fought so hard against when I first entered prison, and it was getting hard to find my comfort zone again.

But one day one of the inmates came to me and said he noticed I didn’t have a lock for my locker, and offered me one of his…

Are you kidding? What’s the catch?

I certainly NEEDED a lock, and I had no money to buy one, but I didn’t know this guy too well. All I knew at the time was that he worked in the kitchen, and was one of the line servers. I didn’t know anyone at the time, and he said that I “seemed like a nice guy”.

He offered to give me one of his locks, and I would owe him nothing. I wanted to gladly take the offer, but I also have been victim to some “cons” while I was in jail and even in prison. Sometimes an offer is just too good to be true…but I had to have a lock, it would certainly take some of my worries off.

So I accepted his offer, and he gave me a lock. With a lock for my locker, I felt a lot better about some things, but I kept thinking back to the last camp I was on. That friend I made at Pasquotank could not have known that I needed a lock, even if he thought I should have one. But SOMEBODY knew I would need one…..

You get where I am headed with this….

Lots of times we need things, not knowing that perhaps the are already in place… that means you have to have faith that the things you need will be there. If we believe that God knows everything, then it isn’t out of the imagination that He knew exactly which camp I was being sent to, and that I would need a lock. And you see, that sounds SOOOOOOOOOO small in detail. Why in the world would He care about a simple lock for my locker? Isn’t there greater things He could be doing?

Well, yeah, but if someone cares enough for the small details, how much more for the greater ones. If this same compassion is upon the incarcerated as much as the free, then consider how much love there must be for us?

He knew I needed a lock, and had someone in place to help me by giving me one of his…and don’t give me the “luck” or “coincidence” stuff, I am not buying that. Yet, in all the details of that plan, I still had to ACCEPT it…and I didn’t. I rejected my friend’s sincerity, for nothing more than foolish pride. I didn’t THINK I needed it, not knowing that I did need it. And it didn’t cost me a penny, it was offered free. In fact, my fried asked me multiple times to take the lock.

But I still refused.

Now I needed a lock and didn’t have one… but get this…there was a backup plan.

I am not going to imply that I could know the thoughts of God, but I might think He saw that I was not going to accept the offer of a free lock, but had in place another person who was willing to give me a lock.

Come on folks, what are the ODDS of THAT happening twice??

This time foolish pride had to take a back seat, I needed the lock, so I accepted. I was honest with the guy that I had no money, but he made it very clear that I owe him nothing. Locks cost about $3.00, and I might have had about 15 cents or something like that. With no job at the time and no money coming in from my family, I was broke.

But I was thankful that Somebody didn’t give up on me when I was stupid enough to reject someone’s kindness. He was faithful to still supply my needs even when I missed it. I am sure I wrote some stuff on this in my journal while I was at Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, one day I hope to share that with you guys.

But as time went on, and as I got comfortable with the camp, and got money in, I noticed that at times that guy that gave me the lock would privately ask me for some favors, maybe a dollar here, or fifty cents there or even some canteen.

It wasn’t that he was broke, he did well for himself because a line server in a prison dining hall could make some good “connections”…and I won’t go into that now…that is another blog too.

Once or twice I could shrug off, but it was adding up. I remember thinking on how much I gave this guy, and it came out to be about $3...the amount of a brand new lock. Did he con me by saying I would owe him nothing, but took advantage of my kindness, or was it justified that since he looked out for me when I had nothing, I should be happy to pay him back, whether he asked out of need or of want.

I actually struggled with that for awhile. Mind you, I never refused him when he asked me of anything because I remember what he did for me. I never lied to him and said I didn’t have it if I did, unless he asked for more than what I had. If he asked for a dollar, and I had five dollars, he got one dollar. If he asked for a dollar and I only had fifty cents, I would let him know.

And I think in retrospect it was fair, even though I do think he felt I owed something to him, despite him saying by his own mouth that I owed him nothing. But I could not blame him, none of this would have happened if I had just accepted the offer my friend presented to me while at Pasquotank. But I think God was still faithful to provide me with a lock when I needed it by someone who really did give it to me free of charge. The fact that he asked for favors after I got money can’t be blamed on him, and I had to honor his kindness.

So lots of you read this and may want to belittle my situation, thinking that God had bigger things to think about than my pathetic need of a lock, and since I am an inmate, God could not possibly care about you. There are hungry folks all over the world, there are wars going on, there are lots of bad things going on in the world, why would He care about YOU?

Well, simple…because it mattered to me.

I never prayed for a lock, but I needed one…and apparently because it mattered to me, it mattered to God. Yeah, it sounds corny to many of you, but maybe it’s because you don’t think God cares about inmates, or SHOULD care about them. And even if He did, the idea of a $3 lock is not on His list of priorities.

I beg to differ. It must have mattered for Him to make it available to me not once, but twice, for free. And the guy who gave it to me would be come a guy I had a lot of respect for in the coming months, so things worked out fine, even though I “missed” my blessing.

That’s something I need to work on, as well as many of you. Lots of people have loved ones in prison and think that there is no hope. Many think that good things can’t happen to people who make mistakes, only to the perfect people…and WHERE are these perfect people of the world?

Nowhere. Nobody is perfect!

I think it’s worth you guys thinking about that, or sharing it with guys in prison. Many guys in prison don’t think they are worthy of anything because they made mistakes. Often times they turn down favors and blessing for pride or guilt. I’ve been there… heck, I’m still working on that. I ask readers to support my writings if they are able, and sometimes I get an email from someone who asks me how they can support my writings. I then get afraid that maybe I don’t deserve it, or fear that if I ask for something, people will see me as a scam artist. Sometimes I have to fight that, because if a person wants to send you something, you should accept it.

Many times I do, but sometimes I get worried in thinking, “what if this person needs that money, would it be fair for me to ask them to send me what they themselves need”? It’s foolish thinking, and it also prevents a blessing.

There are several people who have supported my writing, either by gift or ordering my books. There have been others who asked, but my doubts may have lost me a chance to receive more support. It’s like my friend who offered me the lock free of charge, because he wanted to help me. I have no doubt in my mind or heart that he saw me as an older brother and really cared enough to want to help me. But I was too vain to accept his gift, and it cost me when I went to the next camp.

Yet in all that, God didn’t say, “well, he doesn’t want it, so let him live without one”. You see, WE would say that and call it “tough love”, but I am glad I wasn’t loved like that.

So I have to learn to work on that. If someone offers me support, most times I do accept, but sometimes I feel that I don’t deserve it, so I kinda back off on it, and it causes me to miss out on what I asked for. Inmates in prison often do the same thing when you want to help them. Sometimes they feel that you are too good to them, and may even say they don’t deserve you. Some go so far as to try to release you from the relationship.

Most of this is just vanity, although the heart was in a decent place. But you have to convince them to not refuse sincerity, and to accept the good things that come their way. There is no need to punish yourself by refusing someone’s kindness, that helps no one.

Oh well, enough blogging for now, it is almost 1pm. Please email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com to ask about how you can support my writings, or ask me about my 3 “Grades of Honor” books, or my new Blogbook, or my cards and prison encouragement certificates… remember I have a free offer if you have been reading my blogs. Also, if you want to make a NICE comment, I would appreciate that too.

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