Prison Diary: Joe's Gift

Joe, who is an older Hispanic man, is a part of our set up crew. Joe gets to the chapel early to set out the chairs and put out the songbooks.

But what Joe takes particular delight in doing is going to get Herb and I a cup of tea or coffee. Inmates don't get access to these drinks, but Joe can get them if he's bringing them to us, the volunteers.

Now, prison is all about getting an edge, working the gray areas through daring, smooth talk, deception or a hustle to get access to something. So in the case of getting Herb and I drinks, Joe could work this to his advantage. It would be entirely expected and predictable. In getting coffee or tea for us Joe could grab a third cup and pour himself a drink as well. In fact, when Joe does bring back a pitcher of tea or coffee any inmate around rushes to get some after Herb and I pour our drinks.

But not Joe. Joe never drinks what he brings us.

I asked Joe about that this week. "Joe, there's more tea here. Why don't you get a glass."

"Oh," Joe replied, "I don't drink the coffee or tea I bring you. I don't want anyone to ever think that the reason I bring drinks to you is so that I can have one. I just want to bring the drinks to you, to say 'Thank You' for ya'll coming out here each week."

Joe's gifts are truly gifts. 100%. There's no hustle. He denies himself to make sure of that--for us, himself and the onlooking inmates.

Week after week, Joe brings us a drink, and never gets one for himself.

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