Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On chiding a prisoner

I rather like the word chide, especially when I feel that I must try to realign a prisoner's thinking. It seems kinder than scold, or reprimand, or criticize.

I felt that I had to chide Mr. H. this week, and I don't do that quickly. Prisoners have enough problems and enough issues.

First I should say that I am blessed...I'll go farther than that and say I am actually humbled by the stellar character of a whole list of dear friends who are in prison. Their attitude toward others, their efforts on behalf of the needy, their disposition even in peak times of unpleasantness go far beyond the way I think and act and talk every day. They are amazing individuals and an example not only to me but to all who meet them, including those in charge over them in the prisons.

But then there is Mr. H.

He was wrongly charged, but he wasn't completely innocent. His past life was checkered, including a prior conviction and incarceration. Because he was over-charged and over-sentenced, he feels very wronged. He's angry at the system. He feels all who know him should be trying harder to find justice for him. And because of this, he's not happy. Church really isn't for him. He hasn't actively tried to pursue higher education. There are volunteer group sessions on subjects like self-esteem, but those kinds of programs are for prisoners beneath his level. And so he goes to work everyday, does his job, and mopes.

In a recent Parole Board interview, the board member caught this and also chided Mr. H. She encouraged him to do more. Thinking that this would get him out of prison, he said, "I'll do anything you want me to." And she stopped him right there. "I don't want you to do anything," said stated flatly. "I want YOU to want to do something!"

I'm one of the few friends who sticks with Mr. H, and I felt it my turn to give him a slight nudge.

I encouraged him to thank God for meeting up with that PB member, because he could use that interview as the basis for changing his life, here and now.

I encouraged him to contact me again, not to ask if I can be at his side with a moment's notice for a PB interview, but instead to ask what he can do for HFP.

I encouraged him to contact his family, not to make more demands, but instead to ask what he can do for the family.

I encouraged him to start going to church, but more than that, to ask the chaplain what he can do to make the services more meaningful to those who attend.

I encouraged him to reapply to the group session on self esteem, and this time to ask the group leader what he could do to make the session even better for the participants.

And I said that it was my prayer that, if he must appear before that same Parole Board member again in years to come, we could then tell her about the new life of the new Mr. H.

With a little divine intervention, who knows?

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