Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why I Choose to Serve Convicted Criminals

I found this note in a pile of homework. It was written by a woman in her 50s. She is African-American, heavy set, missing teeth, soft spoken and a bit hard to understand when she talks. But she regularly raises her hand to offer supportive words to her classmates when I ask the women to share their thoughts on a topic. 

I would like to now am I doing this right. because my Reading and understand is not that Good. if you think I cannot do this Class my I get into the class wear there Speaking there Story.
Thank you so much
P.S. because I don't what to give up I have being doing that all my life.

And my response to her, sent via JPay, an online, one-way communication tool. (Inmates do not have Internet access and cannot respond via JPay. Incoming JPay messages are reviewed, printed and delivered by prison security.)

Dear x,

I read your note of concern and reviewed your homework. I want you to know that you will be fine in this class. I understand your writing, and I think it is brave of you to participate in this class when you don't have much confidence in your writing ability. If I am ever unclear on what you are trying to write in your homework, I will simply ask you in person later. Please continue to participate in this class. You are a valuable member. Don't be discouraged. This is not the type of class where we grade grammar and punctuation. This is more about writing to get your feelings out.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Non-Waking and Waking Moments

In a pedicure chair, listening to an Asian-inspired Muzak version of “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters. I close my eyes and a scene unfolds in my mind. I’m sitting in a mostly empty restaurant in a hotel somewhere in Shanghai. As I pick at my plate of Moo Goo Gai Pan, a waiter pushes a carpet sweeper with a squeaky wheel past my table.

At the H-E-B in Mueller Park, I wheel my cart around a corner and come face to face with a little kid who reminds me of Gary Coleman in the height of his “Different Strokes” adorableness. He immediately strikes up a conversation with me, as if we’ve been friends for years.

“They don’t have nothing else to try,” he says, hand on hip. “There’s no more gluten-free fries or frozen yogurt samples. I checked both tables.”

“Aw man,” I say. “I haven’t even tried any samples yet.”

“They do have some of that sushi stuff, but…” he makes a face like he smells something rotten.

“Yah, I hear ya,” I say as his mother rolls up with her cart. She eyes me and then her son.

Without another word or glance my way, Little Gary Coleman falls in line with his mama and the two disappear down the cereal aisle. The thought crosses my mind that he’ll probably grow up to be somebody important someday.