The day was very busy. As Administrative Assistant of FJPM, my inbox was full of projects that needed to get off my desk and into the proper format. In addition, none of the chaplains were in the building, so I planned to also get caught up on several minor projects. I was progressing through the stacks, and then it happened. Inmates began a steady stream over to the chapel needing to make a phone call, find some clothes for their weekend outing, requesting reading glasses, etc. One after another, they came.
At first, my response was cordial and receptive. After several interruptions, however, I became irritated. Why couldn’t they just stop knocking on the door? Didn’t they know I was busy? As I answered the door yet again, my impatience was beginning to show.
“I’m so sorry to bother you,” the inmate said, “but I was wondering if I might look at the birthday cards. My mom’s birthday is next week.” The look of embarrassment on his face stopped me cold, and a multitude of thoughts struck me. But the one thought that stuck me hardest was a single word–grace.
My responsibility is to exhibit God’s grace to the inmates, because God has shown grace to me!
Each day I drive to the prison, work my hours, and go home. If I need to make a phone call, purchase a greeting card for a family member or buy clothing, I take care of it myself. Not so with the inmates. Their needs for the simplest of items must be met by someone else—in many instances, the chaplains and staff at FJPM. Our ministry exists to show the love and grace of God, and the way that we exhibit that is through clothing and birthday cards; through reading glasses and phone calls; and mostly, through spirits willing to be used by God.
These days, I use the space between my desk and the door to remind myself to show God’s grace as I respond to the inmate outside. It’s not about me, after all. It’s all about God.
-Claudette Wood, Administrative Assistant