One of the images I like to use with the men I work with is an illustration about a sponge soaked in water.
If I were to go to a store, find the kitchen aisle, and buy a pack of sponges, I could take them home to use as I see fit. If I opened the packaging, took out one sponge and if my kitchen sink was clean I could fill it up with water, take the sponge which had never been used, ball it up in my hand, plunge it in the water, let it go and it would soak up clean water. If I then retrieved another sponge from the packaging, took it outside, found a mud puddle, balled up the sponge in my hand, plunged it in the murky water, let it go, it would soak up dirty water. The sponge isn’t the difference, it’s the water.
It’s similar to our lives. We are mostly products of where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. If our intentions are good and our hearts are pure most likely we will produce good results and our minds and spirits will be at peace. If, however, our hearts and intentions are selfish we will have no peace and wreak havoc on the lives of others.
This afternoon I stopped by a store to pick up some sodas for our incarcerated father’s class. I grabbed and carried them to the cashier station. I waited on the woman in front of me and when she was finished stepped up and watched the cashier scan the drinks and stick them in plastic bags. When it was time, I scanned my card and then entered my pin number. However, as soon as I punched the digits in I knew it was the wrong pin. I told the cashier and she reset the scanner. For a moment I couldn’t separate all the pins and passwords in my life and choose the correct one but finally settled on the right one. It worked and I walked out with my purchase.
As I drove to the jail I thought about the men in my class who were receiving their certificates of completion tonight. I thought about the different men in the program and how each of them has certain “codes” which work for them. For one humor might be the key, another is not being singled out in class but letting him join the conversation when he’s ready. Our goal at the jail is to give the men a collection of tools and skills which will keep them clean, responsible, have abilities that many people on the outside take for granted. However, getting them to participate and accept the knowledge is tricky. Not any one approach works with all. We must take the time, learning about the men, connecting with them, understanding the way they think so we can “break the code” that will help them make life changing choices.
There’s a Catch –
This morning it was time to take out our mouse traps and get them prepared for winter. It’s been cool here a few nights over the last month and it doesn’t take long for the little critters to start making their way inside. I have plugged every hole and wannabe hole, used steel wool, a special hardened foam and other precautions to try to keep the mice away but nothing seems to work. Every winter we have a few determined rodents who want in and, hopefully, will meet their end.
As I was stretched out in the middle of the kitchen floor today, cleaning the traps, filling them with fresh bait, strategically placing them in heavily mouse trafficked areas, I thought about the instinct of the mice to go where it’s warm, dry and set up home. They’re only doing what they know.
I also reflected on my own habits and thought patterns, ways of doing and being, and wondered when was the last time I caught myself going places I shouldn’t go, thinking detrimental thoughts, indulging in an unhealthy habit. The truth be known each of us should take time regularly to make sure we’re ready for uninvited guests in our hearts, minds, emotions and spirits.
Catching, refusing them residence is not only wise but desperately needed.
You get to the point where it has to be done though you’ve put it off as long as possible… cleaning out the refrigerator.
My wife and I try to be careful not to waste food. We attempt to fix meals in portion sizes for the two of us, freeze what we can, eat left overs for lunches, snacks, even another dinner if needed but sometimes there’s still too much. Containers of forgotten vegetables, misplaced meats, desserts behind milk cartons, add up to an overstuffed and messy fridge.
Finally, after one more item can’t be squeezed onto a shelf, balanced on top of a Tupperware holder, there’s no choice but to begin the dreaded chore. Some foods, covered with tin foil in a glass dish are easy to recognize, others in solid colored containers with lids are a wild guess until you look inside. It’s a bit like being Indiana Jones on an archeological adventure. Afterwards, the refrigerator is organized, clean and, regrettably, ready to start the whole process over again.
I on the other hand feel a great sense of guilt and shame because I know there’s people going hungry, scavenging in dumpsters for scraps, dying from malnutrition and we have so much we’re throwing it away. Sigh. We live in an unfair world.
Wisdom and grace teach us not to just feel empathy for those less fortunate. We are to do everything we can, give away all we can, and never stop trying to make this a more fair and just world. We’re also to be continuously thankful for the abundant blessings bestowed upon us who are not worthy.
The other night I was cleaning out the sink after I had washed a few dishes. I was using a white dish cloth and went to turn on the garbage disposal to chew up any nasty bits of food and gunk left over. I flipped the switch and watched the water quickly drain down when it occurred to me I hadn’t removed the dish cloth from the sudsy water. I turned off the disposal and felt around…nothing. I then reached just below the rubber disposal lining and pulled out the dish cloth. It was not torn or destroyed. Whew!
Wisdom teaches us that we are to examine our lives and allow that which would pollute our spirits and lives to be washed away. It also instructs us to be mindful, careful not to lose track of or allow to be destroyed those things which help us become and stay clean.