“Tom” is on my mind. As a chaplain, I saw this 26 year old inmate at The House of Correction today. One of my guys who has returned to jail again….
He trudges down the stairs from his cell a little rumpled, carrying a sheet of paper. “Something I wrote for you,” he quips as he sits near me on the metal seats at the table in the cellblock. His square face, dark buzz-cut hair, lips that make funny grimaces when he speaks, broad shoulders which I hit lightly sometimes as we converse, and endearing manner though he robbed his grandmother for drug money, make me love him like one of God’s lost sheep, even though when I walk away I think he may actually be hopeless.
We get increasingly communicative as we spend the half hour together in view of the female Correctional Officer and the other inmates who are milling around. At times he runs back to his cell to get pictures of his family (never shown to me in the past three years) and a book he offers me to read about a guy who carried a full-size crucifix around the world as his mission. Tom tells me he feels like giving up at times as he lays on his bunk with nothing to do. I draw him out about the depression he has spoken about before. Words like “empty” and “lonely” come up. I go for them, ask him about trying to write to his father who is a “mean old guy but I love him.” Tom says his dad is not the kind of guy whom you write your feelings to, this 50 year old truck driver who left his wife when Tom was seven years of age and the oldest of three, the mother a heroin addict and who died soon after. “No wonder you feel an emptiness,” I say, searching for his feelings. He doesn’t show any.