It’s Pay Day!!

payday

In the spring of 1996 at the end of my sophomore year in high school I went to two places and picked up job applications….. Lix Frozen Custard and Bagels. I had just turned 16 and was ready to make the big bucks. I chose those two places of employment because I loved ice cream and I loved bagels. Good enough for me!!

I filled out the applications and turned them in. After a few days I took the initiative and called both places to talk to the manager to see if they had reviewed my application. I first called Bagels and Java. The hiring manager was not in at the time and was told to try back later. I then called Lix Frozen Custard and got the manager on the telephone immediately. Within minutes I was hired, asking when I could start.

I was ecstatic! My first real job, making just above minimum wage at the time of $5.25 per hour. I ended up working at that place for two years and then moved away to college.  With this being my first real job ever (oh, I had some grass cutting jobs before this), I learned quite a few valuable life lessons: people skills, time management and work ethics to name a few. But the best part was that I could take home any ice cream that was a messed up order. Let’s just say our freezer at home was always full! HA!

In prison every able bodied individual is required to have a job. Jobs consist of being a cook, a unit orderly, working in laundry, sewing military uniforms, officiating sports games, cutting grass, collecting garbage, librarian, or working in the office. There are about 100 different types of jobs in this place. The only inmates exempt from work are those with a medical pass, the elderly, and the handicapped. Of course, there are some inmates who can find a way to get out of work. For example, you can pay another inmate with commissary items to do your job. As long as the job gets completed, the officers don’t seem to care.

For the most part, inmates are entirely in charge of the functions of the compound. If food is not cooked, we don’t eat. If the bathrooms aren’t cleaned, they stink. If the grass isn’t cut, it looks like a jungle. And so on, with everything.

Since the weather has turned nice outside – actually in Texas it started turning nice in March – my work hours have increased. I actually have two jobs. I love to work and love to stay busy. So I have chosen to take on two jobs. I have been a librarian for nearly three years now as one of my jobs. And this is my third spring/summer season of being a sand volleyball official and my first year as the league commissioner. I work 30 hours a week in the library and 17 hours a week officiating volleyball. I’m also in charge of scheduling and organizing the games, but that comes with the commissioner duties.

If  I officiated volleyball outside of prison for 17 hours, roughly 17 matches, I would make at least $25 per match which would come to $425 per week. In prison (drum roll please) I make a whopping 37 cents per match per hour. Yes, that is cents, not dollars. For one hour’s worth of work, I can buy one Ramen Noodles for 30 cents. Because the air conditioning bill is so high here, inmates have to pay a portion for the cool air (or so I like to think) to work in air conditioning so I get paid even less working in the air-conditioned library at 21 cents per hour. Thankfully, I have enough money to pay for a manila envelope at 15 cents to mail out my crocheted hats. But I have to work extra long to pay for postage. HA!

Since sand volleyball has started up in March my paychecks have been around $50 per month, about $1.56 per day which covers five minutes out of a fifteen minute phone call and one small Hostess item or snack from Little Debbie. Not bad!!!

Money isn’t everything, though. I have survived just fine these past 51 months. Of course, my wonderful parents have helped me considerably when I needed it, and I do crochet hats for my “hustle.” But God has specifically told us in Hebrews to keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. In 1 Timothy it says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Money can be a god to many people. It can hurt and destroy many people’s lives. Why does it seem that many rich people seem to be unhappy and always wanting more; yet those with less are content and happy? You would think it would be the other way around.

Growing up I felt money could solve everything. Well, actually, it can do alot, but only temporarily. Being in prison and living on less than $2 a day really opened my eyes to the simple things in life and not money. Sure, it is nice to treat myself to a pint of ice cream every now and then. In fact, I’m getting one later today at commissary. But in my opinion, it won’t make you any happier in a couple of hours when it’s all gone. It’s a temporary high.

Money is nice to have. But it doesn’t get you into heaven. It may bring you happiness for a little while, but having Christ in your heart and getting into heaven will bring you an eternal lifetime of happiness. If you have money, enjoy it, and then use it to further God’s Kingdom. But don’t make it your god. Make Jesus Christ your one true God.

1 Timothy

Sharing A Room

bunkbeds

Growing up through elementary school, I had the privilege of sharing a bedroom with my younger brother Eric. We had bunk beds in the room and we would alternate weekly sleeping from top to bottom. At bedtime both of us were hardly ever tired, as a lot of kids aren’t when they are forced to go to bed. Instead, we would lie there and talk or even play games.

I can still remember one game we played using the ceiling fan in the room. Whoever was on the top bunk would put an object on the blade of the fan, turn the fan on, and the person on the bottom bunk would try to catch it. I like to think of it now as improving our hand to eye coordination and reaction time. Every once in a while we would make a loud noise diving for the object. Mom or Dad would hear the noise, come up the stairs, tell us to settle down and put an end to the game until the next night.

I also remember one night before bed we caught lightning bugs outside. We put them in small Dixie cups, covered them in aluminum foil and poked holes in the foil for the lightning bugs to breath. We brought the cups inside unknown to our parents and hid them in our closet. I’m sure you can imagine what happened next. Shortly after lying down, the room started lighting up all over the place. “Oh, no! We’re going to get in trouble again!” We immediately had to catch them all as quietly as we could and throw them out the window.

I can’t tell you the number of times I went to bed sweating as a kid with the activities we played instead of trying to sleep. Good times and good memories of my childhood days!

From Middle School through High School I had a room to myself and my two younger brothers shared a room together. But in college, I once again shared a room with multiple other guys. Sleeping with snorers was and still is very tough for me. During my junior year of college I would drop tennis balls from the loft where I slept onto my roommate who slept below me on the couch to wake him up because of his loud snoring. And during my senior year I would throw footballs at my roommate who slept in the bed next to me to wake him up from his snoring.

Even now in this place I have roommates, also called cellmates or cellies. In all, I’ve had around 30 cellies in 50+ months of being locked up. I can’t say we play games that make us sweat right before bed time or catch creatures to bring inside as pets. But I have had my share of some good cellies and some not-so-good cellies, smelly cellies and clean cellies, murderers, drug dealers, gang members and sex offenders, Christians and atheists.

As I write this blog right now I have no cellie. He went home last week. And let me tell you…..it feels great to have the room all to myself. It’s been a week now with another week to go before another Christian brother moves in. In the 50+ months I’ve been locked up, not including the past seven nights, I’ve had a total of five nights all to myself. This is by far the longest stretch without a cellie for me, and I am enjoying every minute.

Not that it is quiet in the unit, as there is no door in my room, but just sitting in solitude without anyone else around can be very peaceful. That’s why I get up at 5am to have my quiet time with God before any of the other inmates wake up and cause a ruckus.

Everyone needs quiet and solitary time in their life. Both are very hard to come by here in prison. But when it does happen, I take full advantage of it. Look at Jesus! He always took time to get away from everyone to pray in solitude and focus on His Father. With the busy-ness in one’s schedule, we too, need to take those time outs to focus our minds on God. He does not want you to forget about Him in your fast-paced life. Take time for Him, whether it is early in the morning or before settling in to bed at night. Whatever time fits your schedule, I encourage you to do it, and make a habit of it. Even serving time in prison my mind is at peace. I begin each day off on a great note when I take time to worship Him in whatever quiet I can get.

be still