Jail Guys

August 27, 2013

Last week I helped build a new library at my kids’ school. It was no easy task. The school moved location, so in addition to collecting over 1000 new books, I moved, alphabetized, and organized genres of books, books, books.

The first night of work, I brought friends and family to help. While I won’t say my teenagers were thrilled with the idea, they brought friends, we ate pizza, and cranked One Direction. They’d never say it was “fun”, but I did get an “it was okay,” which hey, was better than an eye roll. My sites are not so high when it comes to satisfying teenagers.

In spite of the support, we didn’t finish. A few days later I returned, with far fewer assistants. However, the Director of School (a brilliant woman) had found extra help for the day—jail guys who needed to log community service hours as part of their sentence. After saying hi to the two men in orange, I gave them directions how and where to move the books. As we carried stacks back and forth between rooms, one of the guys told me he was reading a great book. I’m ashamed to say—this surprised me. But I engaged immediately and asked him the title. “COLD MOUNTAIN,” he said. Again, shock rocked my body, but I tried hard not to let it show. The guy was maybe nineteen-years old. He was dressed in a tangerine jumpsuit, wore a brown baseball cap, and had a deep scar across his lip. As I caught myself racial profiling, dismay rolled through my thoughts. I loved COLD MOUNTAIN. We got talking about Inman and Ada, and didn’t stop until the last book had been moved.

Some jail guys read. Some know what they’re talking about. Some books can reach across the aisle and shake hands. I hope, from here on out, to do the same.



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