"... I was in prison, and ye came unto me." (Matthew 25.36, KJV)
This week we are going to visit a young man in prison we've never actually met, but with whom I have been corresponding for two years -- plus or minus (time flies when you ain't the one in the hoosecow).
Do have some trepidation. They tell me there is a long walk involved, and I don't do walks well. Also, no one ever accused me of being a great conversationalist, so not sure what I will say. Good thing Kay is going along, she can usually hold me up when I falter (both walking and talking).
Kay probably has less idea what to expect than I. She has no experience with jails [that's a statement, not a question].
Looking back over places traversed and close encounters of the personal kind, it almost seems miraculous that my own jailhouse experience can best be described as miniscule.
At the risk of my children reading this, I have spent exactly two nights in local jails. Both times, I hasten to emphasize, with the apologies of the Sheriff that there was no place else in town they could put me up. If even asked at the time whether I had any weapons, it was the extent of their "search."
In Iowa the Sheriff went upstairs to the family residence (it was that small a jail) and brought down an extra blanket. His wife even provided more food than I would have ever asked for. I might have stayed in their guest bedroom, but one of their children had come home from college or some such.
Something similar happened in another small town. They didn't even have a deputy, so I stayed by myself. The Sheriff (I think his name could easily have been Andy Taylor) bought breakfast from the town's diner.
Yes, children, this was before hippies and druggies came, and before innocence died. And, no, children, details will not follow.
My only real Big House experience was at the federal prison-hospital in Springfield, Missouri about 1980. For a brief time I was considered sort-of "prophet in residence" at Deliverance Temple of The Church of God in Christ (Google that!). One Sunday pastor David Knox asked if I'd go with him to the Federal Penitentiary, where he was an assistant chaplain. He didn't bother to mention I was expected to speak to a group of about 50 hard-time federal prisoners. Have no idea what I said, but do remember my opening words, which seemed to break the ice: "It's probably not true of any of you guys, but I've made some mistakes in my life."
All of my "experiences" are a long, long time ago. Such life events, however, are not things to be forgotten. So, at least when we get to Putnamville I should know the shtick -- what to expect and what not to bring.
Approval to visit has come through, preparations made, guess we're ready. Will write when we get home -- If my luck with jails holds and they let me out when I'm ready to leave.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.