I can’t help but wonder

My Room 101 in hell will resemble a before-dinner reception at an out-of-town business conference.  There are few things I dread more than walking into a room full of strangers for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and small talk. Am I an introvert? You bet!

Naturally, I can’t help but wonder how or why I ever got started in prison ministry. Walking into a solitary confinement wing of 30-36 men, each one out of sight behind a solid steel door with a tiny window, has never been easy.

As I approach each door, I don’t know what to expect: what does he look like, where is he  from, how long has he been in prison, why is he  in solitary confinement. That I am extending myself beyond my comfort zone is an understatment.

It’s even worse when I haven’t gone to the prison for an extended period of time. When I went down yesterday, it had been 5 weeks. The longer I am away, the more detached I feel … almost to the point where I feel I don’t belong, that I don’t fit in. I experience a slight disorientation. Anxiety and discomfort begin to surface as I enter the prison.

On the other hand, setting foot in those housing units got me back into the game. Once I got going, was standing at the first cell door, became engaged in the first conversation, things smoothed out.

During an extended absence, I miss doing the work. I miss the ministry. I miss connecting with the men.

I’m glad to be back although the summer schedule does get a little fragmented and there will be more gaps in my visiting. When I’m not going to the prison on a regular basis, something is missing in my life.

I find little joy in just keeping busy; I need something to do, something that makes a difference in my life and the lives of others.

One offender said that he had never thanked me for the bookmark with the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I’m guessing I gave that to him a year ago. That’s why I go, to bring my presence or anything else to help add a little meaning to a pretty bleak existence.

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