The Shy Inmate

“His left side of his face is drooping!” exclaimed one nurse last night as she saw the young, male inmate who requested to be seen by the staff for his complaint of possible drug allergy.

The other male nurse, who initially accepted the phone call from the unit was still looking at his status in the glowing computer monitor and as he clicked on his booking photo, he yelled, “Oh! Don’t be alarmed guys! His face was like that already!”

I stole a glance from where this nurse was and with the enlarged photo, I saw there was no difference to the soggy cheek on the left side of his face.

As I tried to get the medical chart, the other two nurses were already surrounding him, asking him a lot of questions. He seemed shy. Clear, dark skin despite the droopiness. His words were limited as his eyes tried to maintain contact back and forth, aside from the two nurses, then, with the prying eyes of the Infirmary Deputy. He must have felt embarrassment. From all of those curious eyes. From those curious ears.

I got it, you guys!” I volunteered to the other two nurses as I went to work for 4 hours just to help out the night crew, knowing how short they were. They had been asking me to come in whatever shifts I wanted.

“Are you sure?” asked the male nurse.

Yeah! You’d be going home soon! It’s my turn!”

The whole time, the male inmate sat quietly. Without any movement. His ears widely open. But his mouth was shut tight. 

As my co-workers went back inside the Clinic, he noticed…It was down to just him and I. He took a deep breath. I started asking him probing questions about his symptoms. He said it was his first time to take those pills for his Seizure. He felt itching on his left foot. Then, some burning all over. I didn’t see any rash. He was not having trouble breathing. 

“Sorry, Ma’am…” he uttered…

“I didn’t want to bother anyone,” he calmly added as he bowed his head and looked down on the floor.

Don’t apologize…You’re not bothering us. That’s why we’re here 24 hours because anything can happen anytime. There is no silly symptom. I might not see a rash now but if anything worse occurs later, you’re welcome to complain and come back,” I reassured.

His face became more uneven as he tried to give me a smile. He started talking about his droopiness on his cheek. He was shot when he was 9 years old that hit that nerve and paralyzed that side of his face. He said he was lucky. That he was still able to see, eat, and talk. He appeared more comfortable as I watched the calm rise and fall of his breathing. The redness on his face went away. I knew…It was not the allergy. It was him being shy and being intimidated by so many staff when he first walked in.

I told him that I still would put him to see the doctor in the morning to make sure the new medications were not causing any problem. Or if the order needed to be changed. He thanked me as he got up and slowly went back to the long hallway that led to his unit.

How it related to one’s journey…Any weaknesses should never stop one from complaining or by praying. There is no circumstance that should prevent one from praying as a follower of Christ. If there are any distractions, may one learn to ask by faith for His grace to drive those cares away.  Not only difficult circumstances, but also prayers drive away the spiritual enemies. If one doesn’t know what and how to pray, that can also be brought to God:

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." – Luke 11:1 (NLT)

The Loud Inmate Worker

But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
– Matthew 6:3 (NLT)

He surely was a different Inmate Worker assigned now to work and help out inside the Infirmary. Dressed up in the usual blue uniform, no one could miss his shadow always lurking on the far end of the Clinic. By the table. Where he and the other previous ones usually worked. He was much taller. But creepy. Always staring at each nurse that walked in and out of the main door. His ears, one could tell always listening to all conversations. Some staff was careful. Some were not as if he was invisible. 

I chose to always be careful when he would be around at the wee hours of the morning when he would start his shift. For some unknown reasons, he always caught my attention even if he wasn’t staring at me. He would come into the Clinic and would empty the trash cans. Except. I noticed the difference. The previous ones always walked in quietly after asking for permission. Working with mouth closed and not asking any of us, those ones would just assess each trash can and if full, automatically, would empty and then with each plastic liner replaced. 

Not this guy. He surely picked up and returned the trash cans with a loud noise. Asking whoever was sitting on each computer station if their trash can was full or not so he could empty them. Even if the person happened to not be sitting by the trash can he wanted to change. As his hands picked up the gray, metal cans, his eyes looked around as if he wanted to make sure that everyone knew he was doing a great job.

Thank you for picking up our trash!” I commented.

He didn’t respond. Just the usual creepy stare and then a smirk. Not like those previous ones who would even bow their heads as if I didn’t need to say thank you to their effort.

“You’re welcome, Ma’am,” was the usual answer with a big, warm smile.

As the last trash can was picked up and a loud bang created, he went back to the far end of the hallway. By the table. Staring again at everyone who walked in and out the door. 

“Deputy!” he yelled.

I’m done cleaning the trash cans. You want me to do anything else?” he loudly asked as his big voice vibrated all over the hallway.

“Hmmm….Not at this time,” the Deputy politely replied.

Those previous ones? I never heard them asked the Deputy that loud. Always in almost a whisper-like volume. Without me hearing anything, I would see them mopping the floors or opening new medical charts if done with emptying the trash cans.

Often, whenever I heard this huge Inmate Worker speaking loudly as if he was wanting to be visible among staff, I felt like he wanted his work to be known. True. He was a big help. But there was also a reason behind him working. It was not for his service to be praised and recognized. It was for him to change his heart. Toward good. Less vain. No outward show when it came to his duties. Taking the least notice of his own, good deeds…

Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. – Matthew 6:4 (NLT)

The Despised Rapist

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
- Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

This young male, newly-booked prisoner was quick to answer me when I asked him if he wanted to hurt himself (which the unit advised us prior to his arrival at the Clinic).

“Yes, I am,” maintaining his eye contact with mine through the thick, glass partition window as our Infirmary Deputy sat watching him. He looked like his hygiene was good. He answered appropriately. He looked like he was well-nourished. I didn’t see any other obvious symptoms except when I looked into those brown eyes, I knew he wasn’t telling the truth.

The secretary and I were trying to find his medical screen so we could open a chart. I was sure that Intake Nurse should have opened one if he claimed that he had mental health problem the moment he walked into the Booking area of the jail. But the Intake Nurse did not remember anything about him. There was no chart, affirming my “gut feeling” that he just complained that morning.

As I was about to print some medical labels, I overheard the deputy who escorted him and the incoming Intake Nurse for the day shift talking with him. Sure enough, with eye contact that couldn’t outlast ours by then, he started shaking a little bit, more nervous as he admitted that he got threatened by his cellmates in the unit that they would beat him up and even kill him.

“Why? What’s your charge?” asked the deputy.

He paused. He didn’t want to say anything, I felt because of embarrassment with regards to his answer. A slow minute passed by as we all stood in front of him awaiting for his answer that would help us in return whether I would put him on Suicide Watch or not.

He took a deep breath as he fell on the chair and whispered, “ Rape and Sodomy…”

I let the deputy and the Intake Nurse talked to him that going suicidal was not the answer. After being evaluated by the Mental Health Doctor, he would surely be put back into the same unit. Same cell. Because it was more of housing issue, the deputy went ahead and took him back to Intake so he could be re-housed. I saw his face lit up a bit as he walked slowly, his wrists remained cuffed behind his back.

Go figure!” the Infirmary Deputy stated.

“Those others were probably thieves, murderers and substance abusers yet there they were, ready to kill this man because they wouldn’t accept the fact that he raped someone else. They hated that crime yet they also committed their own crimes…”

I just remained silent. Working for 13 years in the prison, I learned about that and never understood at the beginning of such behavior. But when I read more about God’s truth, I knew He was right! 

That we, humans, are quick to trust in ourselves and think how righteous we are! And how we despise others! When in reality, it is only God Who can help us be righteous. No one can enter God’s Kingdom if he is full of himself. One needs to come to God with humility and trust.

I hardly see improvement from the lives of these incarcerated individuals. Not until they recognize that each of them has committed crimes, and that in truth, there is really no one better than the other. The fact is they have all broken the laws.

For it is only by recognizing one’s sins and depending on God’s mercy (by acknowledging what Jesus has done on the cross to save humanity), one can enter His Kingdom. 

Not by one’s own merit…

Forgotten Valentine's

You would think being married for 21 years, my husband and I would be so used to exchanging gifts on this day, Valentine’s Day…

We hugged after our morning prayer after he stashed his red lunch bag into his bigger black bag he used for work. I slightly patted him on his back and whispered…

“Happy Valentine’s Day…Shucks…You don’t even remember? But I love you…”

He hugged me tighter, ready with a quick reply, “But you know we don’t celebrate it because everyday is like Valentine’s or Christmas or any other holiday for us.”

He had a quick comeback. But it penetrated my heart. Because his answer was true.

Out of the 21 years we were together, learning more about each other, having more faith in each other, our love and respect for each other had grown. Gone were the days of wooing and trying to be perfect. After going through life’s trials and having our child, we didn’t need to try to gain our affection for each other. We knew there was no perfect “spouse”. Both flaws and assets made up one perfect package for our union.

He was right. We might never give gifts nor even greet each other but love was more evident when we held hands together and cried together during trying times. Love was there when he kept wiping my forehead and giving me the support I needed as we welcomed our child. He never slept that day. He wanted to make sure I was comfortable and all my needs were met, aside from the cares given by the hospital staff. Love was there when he understood the need to help out my parents when they became ill and needed financial help. Love was there when he endlessly consoled my broken heart when my mother died from stroke and my father from Colon Cancer 7 years after that... Love was there when he kept reassuring me that everything would be okay when some of my superiors gave me a hard time at work and demoted my position. I could go on and on…

“Drive safely!” I uttered as I opened the door and led him out to his van waiting in the driveway. Toting 3 huge bags he used for work, he gave me a kiss and whispered “I love you.” Those words that were precious. But even more if shown in actions.

As I closed the door and stopped the breaths of the chilly air, I heard my husband turned on his car’s engine. He was going to work and had been working hard. Sacrificing always for his family. In each day.

And that is true love. To put someone else and another’s interest above yourself. Kinda’ like God’s…After all, God is LOVE

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
-Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Through Life's Sufferings

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. – 2 Timothy 1:12 (NIV)

My son was recovering from his cold and despite the lingering coughs, my husband and I allowed him to go to their highschool’s play on Saturday night. Knowing that he was eager to see the art work he did for the Drama Deparment and he was bringing his 2 close friends. I asked him if he could invite them over a little early than the set time so the three of them could talk and just have a good time prior to watching the play and enjoy dinner together. I knew his friends since elementary. Nearing the departure from their highschools, my husband and I loved to see them keep their friendships more than ever. All of them were good kids who loved talking about politics, life’s challenges pertaining to their age, and as expected, the clash of opinions when they would not agree with each other. made them closer.

After the play, they went to a coffee shop and my son, never knowing the barista had put 2 tea bags, found out after drinking it. When he got home, he couldn’t sleep. He was literally watching the clock hour after hour. The fact that he was just recovering from his illness, he started feeling tired again that night. Until the morning, when my husband and I had to go for an appointment and still, our son remained awake. I felt sorry for him. Being a “night owl” as a nurse, I knew the feeling of sleep evading as if it wanted you to just keep chasing it. I reassured him. Once the caffeine’s effects waned, sleep would come. It did…I was relieved to see him on his bed, with eyes closed and not aware of what was going on. 

Finally,” I whispered to myself.

When he got up, I had food prepared as he missed his lunch…Then…I heard him choking up as he talked with his dad. As if a pent-up pressure was being released, he talked about the stressful homework from his AP classes. He said he was not complaining about having them because that was his choice to be in those advanced classes. He was just getting tired because the homework kept coming. And that was what his friends and him even talked about. Even on the weekends. My husband was quick to hug him. As I fought my own tears of hearing him not disclose what truly bothered him . Though we never lacked reminding him that his health was more important than his grades. That was why we enjoyed it when his friends and him would get together. We knew…he needed that break. Time to time. He looked energized after getting the coveted sleep for a few hours. As he ate a bowl of soup, he kept venting out. He knew he didn’t need to wait to graduate to see how college would be. He knew. He was already in a college level at this time. And the pressure was much more. 

Don’t allow this pressure to take over you. That’s why we remind you to take a break time to time.”

“Yes, Mom,” he quickly replied as he took a sip  of the warm broth.

Are you feeling better now that you were able to sleep?”

“Yes," as a little bit of crumbs from the toast fell on his plate.

After countless hugs and reassurance, we reminded him

Of the importance of coming to his father and this mother whenever he encounters life’s trial. Because it’s not always going to be a victory. It’s not always going to be a smooth road. It’s important that he doesn’t quit despite life’s pressures. We keep on fighting. We keep on moving forward but with steps that go against the flow of this world. We don’t listen to ill advices nor please others just to move ahead. We just focus on Jesus. The One Who never quit on us. The One Who gave His life on the cross so we could live.

He cleared his throat. A drop of tear dried up in the corner of his eye. Then, a smile appeared until a good laugh was released as the three of us recalled a funny moment. My husband and I looked at each other. We knew…He would be okay. We knew the two of us would be okay. Because of Him. Jesus. 

"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." – Matthew 18:20 (NASB)

The One Who keeps reminding the two of us through sufferings and trials that we are given His joy. His gift that goes far beyond being “happy.” Joy that is within. Not based from outward circumstances. Joy that we can share with our dear child. Even when we are all sailing through a storm. For He is there...going through tough times. With us...Thank You Jesus!

All posts/composed songs copyright by RCUBEs.