I got a letter from an inmate a few days after Father's Day. Normally a guy who likes to stay as busy as possible in the prison---painting, reading the Bible, helping other guys---that Sunday he took six naps and still felt wiped out. He said he figured on Father's Day there would be more than the normal number of Sunday visits. He described the scene, a scene most of us will never see:
"You can (we can) hear the phone ring up at the desk when the front office calls for somebody for a visit. But in the mornings, after 8:30, often a phone ring precedes the C.O. getting on the intercom and calling up for a visit. So every time the phone rang this morning you could see guys (actually feel it more than see it) kind of pause in whatever they were doing to listen for their name. Maybe. But as I say, only a few guys ended up getting called. At least from this unit. I think only three. At least that's all I heard."
Someone else dear to me (call him "C") was released from county jail last Monday. When he was first admitted, he was hard pressed to prune the number of names of close friends and relatives down to the six that the jail would allow on his visitor's list. As time went by, and authorized people never came, he would resubmit the list with new names of people who assured him they would come. Over time, expectations were increasingly lowered. In the end, he may as well have had only me and my mother on his list.
Now C has been released and a few friends have come around to welcome him and hang around. I remember when he was in jail that he had said he would have a long memory for who were his real friends---and who weren't---when he got out. But if he ever asks me about it, I will suggest he go easy on the no-shows. I remember this postscript to the story of Job's lonely sojourn in the valley of the shadow of death:
"And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job. . . . And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him . . ." (Job 42:11).
I suppose you can do one of two things with this if you are Job---or C. You can kick the bums out and say, "Where were you when I needed you?" Or you can smile and privately chalk one up to human nature and say, "Come on in, friends---let's celebrate."
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