“Nourishment” by student-offender

 In prison, or any other place for that matter, we do what we can for others – at least that is my prayer.

When in early 2019, illness swept the Nation, I got it. I thought it was the flu, but a nurse at the hospital said it was something else. Who really knows what the hell it was? I was ill for a month and went through two regiments of antibiotics before getting over it. Consequently, I knew firsthand the misery of the illness.

Then, early one morning I noticed my friend James, “Preacher” by nickname, was ill. They called him Preacher because he never stopped talking. I worked with Preacher for years at the prison. He worked as a maintenance man and I worked in the office as a clerk. He was a standup guy, a man of his word, and dependable – all qualities in a person that mean a lot – especially in prison. He was a handsome fella and stood 5’11” and at 51 he exhibited good physical strength. Tattoos covered his arms. He rarely cut his foot-long, brown hair but pulled it straight back into a pony-tail. His face was always clean shaven. And what I thought was a remarkable trait, even when he felt bad, he smiled. I couldn’t do that. How the hell do you smile when you’re ill?

My friend had been ill for about ten days and from looking at his red face, runny nose, and watery eyes, I could tell he felt terrible. I knew he had not eaten a hot meal for days, when in fact eating would have made him feel better. If he was like me, when I was ill, I was hungry, but didn’t have the energy to cook. His slow-pace and droopy shoulders revealed his struggle, and I would help him.

Preacher worked nights doing in-house laundry, so he was up working throughout the night and me, I was an early riser. Since I had the means, I decided to cook him breakfast. In my possession was hard-boiled eggs and sausage. I often purchased eggs and sausages from the prison’s Fresh Favorite program that allows prisoners with money to buy special food items. Although eggs and sausages may not be special foods in the free world, they are special in prison.

I pulled two eggs and cut them in half. Then, I cut a sausage into four thick strips. After that, I placed them on styrofoam, I warmed them in the microwave. Sausage-cooling-aroma filled the room reminding some of breakfasts passed. I added bread and grape-Jelly to the tray.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Preacher watching me off and on and he folded clothes, sniffed, and occasionally drew his hankie to blow his nose. When I approached him try in hand, he said with a smile, “You’re going to eat good ain’t you brother?” I handed him the tray and said, “No – but you are.” He was grateful as he ate. He couldn’t thank me enough, and even though his eyes were watery, I saw tears in them. My blessing, of course, was that the Lord allowed me to give a gift of breakfast to a friend.

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