22 March 2007

Found in the Mail

Dear Chapel,
Could I please have a New King Jesus bible with the words of Jesus in red?

Later that week: Thank you for the bible, but why aren't Jesus' words in red in the Old Testament?

--Could I have a new bible? I don't understand all the old language.

--Could I have a Russian bible? (or Korean or Cambodian, Spanish or Vietnamese, large print)

--I don't read very well. Do you have a bible with pictures?

--Do you have any pictures of Jesus? I want to know what he looks like.

--I need to talk to you ASAP. There's stuff going on that I don't understand.

--Could you call CPS for me? My wife's boyfriend is bothering my kids.

--I need the address for the IRS.

--Could you find my mother and sister for me? I lost touch with them eight years ago. I think they live in Chicago.

--This is my SIXTH kite. Why aren't you answering me? All I asked for was an address book, a bible, a correspondence course, a penpal, a list of approved housing for Spokane, the address of all food banks in my area, and my release date.

--My mother was in a car accident and she's in the hospital. Can you find out how she is?

--Could I please have a rosemary?

--Did you get any crosses yet? You didn't have any the last time I was here, but now I'm back and I'm hoping you have some because I need one if I'm going to stay out of here.

--Dear Chaplain, thank you.

You're welcome.

01 March 2007

Unintended Funnies

One of my daily tasks is to go through the stack of requests that are sent through the prison mail system. (They are called "kites" because you have to "fly" them to the appropriate person.) Every now and then, something funny comes along.

Today there was a request for an card for "my wife who is going to have our new baby sometime in the next two weeks." Simple enough. But then there was this note, "You sent me a 'get well' card by mistake." Reason enough to smile.

There was a note from a man who wanted a meatless diet for Passover. When I found out he was Wiccan, I sent him a note and said, "If you are receiving your religious diet, you'll be meatless for Passover."

Religion in prison can be an fascinating mish-mash of what people have lived as children, what they've heard preached against, and their own desire to make their lives different from what has gone before. Part of the job of a chaplain is to sort through the tangled lines and straighten them out. Only then can the spirit fly, like the kites that fly through the system, like the one that hangs on the wall of my office, an inside joke.