Altars in the Jail

When you sit at a bolted-down table in the day rooms at the Muscogee County Jail, you may think, as I have, that something mightier than a hurricane might upend it. Or maybe a rocket.

During my teaching time this past Monday, it occurred to me that these tables are really altars.

Each table has four metal seats affixed to it. The whole thing is this bland, yellowish color.

Each week I selfishly wish that three or fewer people will join us, because I don’t like the idea of standing up. I am keenly aware that posture could be seen as standing over them, as they’re sitting, when in actuality I want to be seated as an equal. (Don’t get me wrong; I have no desire to be an inmate, but I do wish to let them know I have struggles and sorrows too.)

So anyway, on Monday one of the things we talked about was gratitude. And how hard it is sometimes simply to be grateful, when life can swirl around and you get sucked in the debris and the last thought on your mind is being grateful.

These women know this, and not just because they’re locked up and not dead and they’re getting another chance. One said she’s grateful for her mother because she’s taking care of her small children while she’s behind bars. Another said she prayed the other day for tacos, and then “chicken with the bones in” and lo and behold, the jail kitchen prepared those exact meals.

“The Bible says we have not because we ask not,” she said with a laugh.

The third woman said she’s thankful for friends in jail–a couple of people who really have her back. I imagine that’s hard to come by.

I have come to see these otherwise bland, bolted-down tables as beautiful altars because we present our cares to God there; sometimes we shed tears on the table; we talk about things just like you and I would over coffee. It’s by no means fancy. But for that sacred hour, we’re really just four women in the world, trying to find our way.

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2 thoughts on “Altars in the Jail

  1. Maya Angelou says, “We are more alike than we are different.” But we so often focus on the differences that we forget the most important parts of ourselves, the sacred parts of ourselves are the same. Thanks for reminding us, Allison.

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