26 November 2008

A Few Updates

#1. About the atheist who wanted a non-kosher diet: I went to see him in his unit last Sunday. He wasn't there. He's sitting in the Closed Observation Unit (mental health area, monitored 24/7), wearing a smock, not talking to anyone. Seems he made that comment about kosher food while he was working in the kitchen and someone took offense. Smacked him over the head with a mop handle. Two black eyes and 14 stitches later, he'll be spending Thanksgiving in a very bare room. (The smock is so he can't use his clothing to harm himself.)

#2. My car: has not been heard from since it was stolen. Although a bank teller may have heard one of the thieves on the phone. Go figure. A young woman called wanted to know about whether a certain account was active. The bank doesn't divulge that kind of information. Young woman hung up--or thought she did. There was some further conversation about "We need to get another car soon. This one's only good for a few more days." HA. Tabs are up December 1st.

#3. One of the fun things I get to do: deliver backpacks to two local schools. The local foodbank that sits in our parish block established a backpack program for kids who might not have enough food for the weekend. They pack up Top Ramen, mac and cheese, breakfast bars, juice, things kids like to eat and can prepare by themselves. There are at least two dozen kids at each of five schools getting those backpacks. It's sad that they need the food, but great that we can provide a little something.

Last Friday, I was on a delivery run and hauling backpacks into an office. A girl, probably eight or so, was on her way to the front office but stopped and said, "I'm one of the backpack girls." I told her I was delighted to meet her. "I sent you a thank you card," she said and went on to describe her backpack. What a jewel.

#4. Other things that could explain why I haven't posted much lately: I'm in school. It's a pastoral leadership program, two days a month. Should be easy, right? HA! It was a day when I was supposed to be headed to school that my car was stolen, remember? There's a lot of reading to be done, and papers to write. Today it was the paper that got me. I've known about this assignment since September. We got more explicit instructions back on Nov. 12th. When did I decide to write this 5-8 page paper that had to be postmarked by Nov. 26th (and not emailed or faxed)? Why, today, of course. I actually function fairly well under pressure and I'd been chewing on the "case" to analyze for a while, but putting it together with the information we'd gotten in class and in the readings... sheesh. I kept sending my sister email updates: "It's 1:30 and I've written 3.25 pages." Lucky for me, the paper was done, printed, stuffed in an envelope and hauled to the post office before 5pm.

I plan to spend a good part of the next three days doing the reading for class that is next Tuesday. And how did I end up without a Bible in my house? Are they all at the office?

If you think dysfunctional families are fun during the holidays (witness the slapstick comedies that come out about now), try being in prison. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, it's going to be a bumpy ride, as some famous actress once said. We try to walk a fine line, having events that focus on families and kids, which irritates or depresses the hell out of people who don't get to see their families, and we have to carry on as if one day is just like another, except that it's way too easy for the staff to get cranky for being away from their families.

I look at the calendar and wonder where 2008 has gone. I had such good intentions. Maybe I'll sort the bills, clean off the dining room table, haul out the recycling, and put on "Amahl and the Night Visitors." I'm almost ready for the season.

19 November 2008

It Takes All Kinds

The requests from offenders have multiplied in the last week or so. Many of the requests are from people who have been gone for a while and are now back because they violated their community custody (aka parole). Things have changed since they were last here.

#1 request: "Please send me some Thanksgiving cards. I need 10 for my family and girlfriends." The chapel doesn't do cards anymore, I have to tell them. Order them from store--where, it's reported, they get lousy cards.

#2: "Please send me an address book. I don't want a piece of paper. I want an address book." Okay, truth is, we've been out of address books for a couple of weeks, so my solution was to make up a sheet of paper with address labels on it so people could at least collect all their information in one place. Once we got the address books back in, they could just transfer the stuff.

#3: "I want a rosary cross to wear, please." Do you want a rosary (with beads, cannot be worn) or a cross (wooden, can be worn). They are two separate items. Please indicate your preference.

#4: "My counselor isn't talking to me. I need to see you NOW ASAP." You and about 50 other folks. Take a number. Get in line. (Okay, I don't really say that, but there are moments.)

This one took the cake today: "I am an atheist. I do not believe in any religion. I notice that some of the food we are served here is kosher. You are infringing on my rights and forcing me to follow the practice of a religion I don't believe in. I want a diet with non-kosher foods. Please make this happen NOW." At least he said please. I wrote him back that I'd see him on Sunday and discuss his diet issues.

I was asked to review a Safety Plan and Calendar for the Holiday Season today as well. Sigh. Although the document was labeled "2008" none of the dates matched what was on the calendar. There were events listed that aren't happening this year, events that happened last year and no one has said they want to do them again this year, and somehow my name was on the spot that said, "Will provide inspirational thoughts and stories for the season." I think my first posting will be the list of 125+ friends and relatives of offenders who have died since January 1, 2008, with the note, "Be grateful you're on this side of the grass today."