I woke up this morning to assending notes, "Ding, ding, ding, ding... Breakfast in 5 minutes," through the speaker in my room. It doesn't help that everything is concrete, so it's echo-y in here. I laid there wide awake, thinking I should hear the other girls getting up in the other cells, but it was quiet - Just like every time I woke up last night when the guards made their rounds. I'm guessing it was every half hour that I heard the buzz they make with their tool on a button on the wall to electronically log that they were here to do bed checks.
After five minutes of quiet, and me sitting on the edge of my bed wondering why everyone else wasn't getting up, the same voice on the loud speaker said, "Breakfast time!" Then I heard rumbling and morning groans of not wanting to wake up. Within a few seconds 10 toilets must have flushed all about the same time. Seriously 10! I laughed to myself. So this is jail in the mornings...
Ready or not, I walked out of my cell into the common area dressed in my stripes and had a seat at one of the metal tables next to another girl. Pretty soon another girl joined us and I said, "Good morning." She half smiled and pushed her hair out of her face. The girls in the cells upstairs sat staggered on the stairs and some twiddled with each other's hair. It reminded me of my college days of doing my teammates' hair for softball game days.
Everyone had a plastic cup and orange spork except me. I noticed a sign on the wall in big, bold letters "MANDATORY CUP AND SPORK EXCHANGE AT BREAKFAST EACH MORNING!" (One of the guards mentioned later that he's seen a plastic spork filed into a sharp tool, so that's why they have to keep a strict count on them and exchange them each morning.)
A new inmate I hadn't seen before pushed a cart of food in, accompanied by a guard. "Good morning my apple blossoms!" the inmate said cheerfully. No one said much as they lined up for food. She gave us a bowl of bran flakes, sliced bananas on the side, packet of sugar, and a carton of milk as the girls mumbled through the line. I grabbed my designated cup and spork as I filed through the line as one of the last ones.
I had purposely found my place toward the end of the line so that when I had my food and was looking for a place to sit, I wouldn't 'accidently' take someone's seat. I felt like I was in 6th grade again, hoping there would be a seat next to Dolly once everyone else was seated. There was. I bowed my head to bless my food.
When Jason and I were first dating, he was just back from a 2 year church mission. I remember being at Wendy's and Jason and his friend blessed their food - right there in the middle of everyone at a public restaurant. I was so impressed with that, that I've tried to do that also. However, saying a prayer at breakfast in jail was new for me, and it made me feel like I was sticking out, as it wasn't something the other girls at my table did.
Breakfast was a lot quieter than last night. The girls weren't all awake yet for one, and I noticed the TV wasn't on either. After breakfast everyone disappeared back to their cells to sleep some more. I went to my bed to read "Let God Be God" that Dolly let me borrow, a story about Job from the Old Testament. At 7:00 a voice came over the loud speaker again and called for headcount. Dolly had told me that at headcount we should be dressed in our stripes and stand outside our cell door to be counted. I had never taken my stripes off even to sleep last night, so I was ready.
A guard came to the window and counted 14 of us and then waved. That was the sign for everyone to go back to bed I guess. Good thing Dolly had given me some paper and a pen and a book to read so I had something to do. The silence was nice compared to the craziness last night.
I miss my family. I wonder how they slept, if they are up yet this morning, what they are eating for breakfast. Today I will miss basketball games and giggles and getting the house and clothes ready for Sunday. I will miss tucking them in and reading scriptures together and hearing the cute things they pray for. I hope the jail can fulfill my commissary request soon so I can have my calling card to call home.
A couple things have stuck out to me in the book I read this morning, Let God Be God. It's based on the story of Job from the Bible. Job lost everything - his livelihood, his family, his friends, his home. Everything. Yet he still remained faithful and counted on God to continue to help him. The book pointed out Job 23:10. Job says "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Gold. Job hoped to come out on top. Even after all he had lost. He saw it as a test of faith. If Job can loose a lot more than me, I can have that attitude too. I still am just trying to figure this place out and know what in the world God wants me to learn from this experience.
Another quote that stuck out, "...I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction... I have learned... everything that has truly inhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained." It's true. The hardest things I have fought back from are some of the best memories I have, because of the growth achieved through it.
At breakfast I noticed that 3 of the tables were full, but there was one girl who sat by herself at the 4th table. I decided to sit by her for lunch. I bowed my head to bless my food. When I was done and looked up to start eating, I noticed Dolly at the other table blessing her food also. I smiled inside.
I got to know the girl I sat by today. She has long hair and has a friendly face. It amazes me how open people are here. They have no problem sharing what they are in for, who they have 'on the outs' waiting for them, what they want to do when they're out. A lot of this girl's life has been heartache. Her mom abandoned her when she was 2 so she was raised by her grandparents. She was molested as a young girl. She described relationships she's been in and out of - still not really connecting that they were abusive and unhealthy. From her point of view it was her fault. She's moved around looking for right answers. She's had 4 kids, which she finally adopted out. She knew it was best for her kids to have a better shot at life than what she had. I told her how impressed I am at her unselfish decision to let her kids go. I can't imagine having to make that choice.
I know that everyone makes choices for themselves and has to withstand the consequences, but when does an innocent child - at 2 who has a mom who has abandon her - make the switch from what she's always known - to a better life? If you've never been taught, what helps one person make good choices and another go along with their circumstances?
As I sat there and talked with this girl not much older than I am, I felt incredibly blessed for the family and life I have been born into. I also learned a huge lesson,