Sunday, October 30, 2005

I Went to Prison Today

not as an inmate, but to pick one up who had been released. The Abbess of St. Paisius asked if I'd do them a "pastoral favor"... how can you say "NO" to an Abbess? Anyway, S.K. was imprisoned for drug use and prostitution.

She was being released on Sunday morning. She called and asked if I could pick her up. I kind of hesitated...right in the middle of Matins and I'm the Reader for our mission. But then I thought, oh yeah...sure, I'll pass by on the other side because I'm going to the Temple and can't be bothered with a wounded body lying by the side of the road. OK. That nanosecond of hesitation is worthy of repentance. Some day the gospel will sink in....

I learned early on in "pastoral ministry" classes that you never leave yourself alone with a woman in a "counseling situation". Transporting a prostitute to a halfway house alone? ehhhh...yeah. I figured it might be a good idea to take another woman with me. But who from the Mission could I take? My wife is the only person in our Mission who can carry everyone in the choir and is the choir director. Bill (my co-host on the radio show) can read, so I took his wife with me. We arrived and waited almost two hours in the parking lot of the prison for her to be released. She is 50-ish, haggard and, if a prostitute, would be the object of someone's absolute desperation for human contact. We talked while we took her to Walmart to buy her some clothes and personal items, then to Taco Bell for the first fast food she'd had in almost two years. Then to the halfway house to check in but which didn't open the doors until 5pm, to my house for the afternoon, then back to the halfway house.

All of her family, mother, father, brothers, step family, and kids are on drugs. Some have died, committed suicide and several are in prison. She has one sober brother. She is afraid. Her stomach hurt from fear. She is out of prison, clean and sober and knows no one, has no one and is in a strange town. A perfect recipe for relapse. She wants to call us, she hints and fishes around for more help than we are able to give. I deflect the bait and talk about recovery, fear and staying focussed on the future. She says I sound like someone who is in recovery. I just say we are ALL in recovery from life and sin. She laughs, "Yeah, I guess you're right...that's good, I'll remember that..." She says her life is in the hands of the Lord. Foxhole conversion? I dunno. I've heard that before from druggies coming off detox and rehab. I always pray its real. It is real, I suppose, at the moment, like for all of us. Staying real in the long run? God only knows.

I parked at the curb, got her bag, and we wove our way through all the crazy homeless people congregated at the door of the shelter hoping for a bed for the night. She had a ticket, they didn't. She went in the door, turned and looked like a child walking through the doors of first grade away from her mother for the first time. I looked at all the people she would be cast in with at the shelter. They are all in prison.

Prison. Self made, man made, chemical, environmental, forced upon us, chosen by us, they are all hell. "Bring my soul out of prison that I may praise Thy name..." Lord have mercy!

6 comments:

Mimi said...

Lord have Mercy - she has my prayers.

olympiada said...

thanks for keeping it real sp!

ragamuffin diva said...

Dope is so much easier to get than a life. You choose life and suddenly there are decisions to be made, work to be done, relationships to be entered into.

Lord, have mercy, indeed. Yes, we all are in recovery. But, some of us have better tools to work with. I'm asking St. Mary of Egypt to interceed for her.

Thanks for this aching post.

Grace said...

As the diva said, thanks for this post. I have wanted to get into prison ministry maybe, but I chicken out when I think about the population you'd be dealing with. There are so many people that just want help at all costs, and I'm afraid that just some meager good intentions wouldn't keep me from getting in way over my head in no time.

But I like the idea of asking St. Mary's prayers. Do you have a first name for this woman? (You can e-mail it if you'd rather keep it private.)

s-p said...

Hi Grace, et al.,
Her name is Sandy. I picked her up for Church Sunday and... well...I'll blog about the rest of the story some time this week. Yes, prison ministry. Someone asked me Sunday if I do prison ministry. I said no, but then I'm in touch with three people in prison right now, one on death row that I'm planning on visiting in my spare time.
So I guess I am. I used to hire ex-cons who weren't really ex, just out of prison was all. Its an education. You CANNOT be co-dependent one iota and be in prison ministry. You can be compassionate, but one chink in the armor and you'll get used and manipulated in a heartbeat. Wise as serpents, harmless as doves becomes a hard spiritual discipline when dealing with convicts. More on this on the blog...

simojt_jeffrey said...

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