Friday, June 3, 2011

How HE Wants Us To Live

Being an older person in jail/prison has its benefits.  While the environment is volatile and rife with violence and fear, there are many who seem to actually respect and treat with consideration the elders.  Being in my early 50's I qualified as a grandma type figure or "elder".  Although during the first 19 months I was in Dallas County Jail following my trial and awaiting results of the initial stages of my appeal I did run in to a few women right off the street who wanted to take on anybody and everybody.  That is a lifestyle I have never lived and having never physically fought I was no match for anyone, yet there were at least two instances at Dallas County where I had to stand my ground one way or another. 

Both instances happened in a medical general population tank at the Government Center in Dallas, also known as the George Allen Building.  In a tank there were 5 cells, and in each of the 5 cells there were 5 inmates.   So, in the tank's dayroom that we all shared there was 25 of us.  At night, between 11/12 p.m. and about 4 a.m. we were locked into our cell with our cellmates, so just 5 of us during that time.

I was having a difficult time with one of the women who had recently moved into our cell.  She had a reputation of lieing, picking fights and cheating at cards.  She was about 22 years old, a bully and very loud.  Her crime was stealing credit cards from little old ladies purses who were shopping at Walgreens Drug Stores.  She apparently was wanted by many and showed up on several security videos, as most every day she was called out to the magistrate court to receive more charges against her.  Last I knew she had well over 50 different charges brought against her.  At any rate, you can see by the crime that she was a predator of the elder so my age was probably a red flag to her but not in a good way.

One night once they had locked the cell for the 4 - 5 hours she started yelling at me.  I don't recall what set her off, if anything.  I just turned my back and ignored her but I also did not sleep a wink.  I was having such a difficult time that after breakfast at 4 in the morning I just stayed out in the dayroom with my Bible.  I opened it up and was immediately drawn to Chapter 4 in Colossians.  As I'm sure you know, Colossians was written by apostle, Paul, while imprisoned.  The Bible I had (sent to me by Sam, Nancy's husband and my minister) was The Message version, which is current day dialect, perfect for my understanding.  Colossians 4: 2 - 6 is as follows:
  • "Pray diligently.  Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.  Don't forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I'm locked up in this jail.  Pray that every time I open my mouth I'll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.  Use your head as you live and work among outsiders.  Don't miss a trick.  Make the most of every opportunity.  Be gracious in your speech.  The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out."
Wow!  It certainly changed how I handled things.  Instead of fighting back or getting ugly with gossip I took the more positive approach.  There were no more outbursts by her toward me and I was able to get some sleep, trusting that when my eyes were closed I would be safe.  I was so thankful for the Bible and most especially for getting direction as to how to live, even under the worst of circumstances.

The other situation I wanted to tell you about started while my husband, Ron, was visiting one evening.  At the Government Center, the visiting was a bit different because of it being such an old facility.  The visitors actually came down the hall to where our tank was located and there were small (3" by 6") type windows at eye level, where we would stand and talk to one another's eyes while speaking over telephone receivers.  When looking in these small windows the visitors would actually have a look into our dayroom and the bars beyond that were our cells.  Intermittently between our little visitor windows were pay phones for inmates making calls out. 

Back to that evening, I had just started my visit with Ron and this other inmate (a prostitute who had just been arrested and placed in our tank) had decided to use the pay phone right next to me (probably just 2 feet away) and she started screaming at the person (I was told it was her pimp) on the phone with her.  I calmly asked her to quiet down as I was visiting, so she then starts screaming at the top of her lungs at me.  Next I raised my voice just slightly and told her again to move to another phone.  An officer happened by and told us to stop it and sent Ron on his way, ending our visit early.  I was fuming, Ron had traveled a long way to get there and he could not see well enough to be driving at night in the first place.   I said nothing else to her that evening or the next couple days.  Every time she would walk by me she would brush up against me.  I wondered what that was all about and the women I played cards with told me that's what they do to start a fight.  I had no idea, clueless!

I needed to defuse this thing but didn't know how so I returned to my Bible, praying for guidance.  The last thing I wanted was a fight.  I opened the Bible to 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5: 13 - 18.  Again, it is The Message version and it said:
  • "Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part.  Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on.  Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet.  Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.  And be careful that when you get on each others' nerves you don't snap at each other.  Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.  Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time;  thank God no matter what happens.  This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live."
It was the perfect thing for me to read, righting my attitude.  Then just a couple days after that the two of us sat together in the dayroom and shared with each other about our lives and how we came to be in Dallas County Jail.  She and I got along beautifully for the rest of our stay in the same tank, showing respect for one another.  The day we split up during a massive move of all inmates out of the condemned Government Center she saw me struggling with the weight of my stuff.  She offered to help me and I accepted.  I remember wanting to cry for her gracious offer and kindness.  Then we said goodbye, with smiles, as we went to our new assignments in a different facility.  All of that happened in one week's time and OH! what a difference the change in my attitude made. 

We can never go wrong by turning to the Word for guidance.  I don't know how I could have survived the three years without it.  God sure is faithful to us and in my life he used a very difficult environment to show me how His Word works....but then where better to see it so clearly.  He had my full attention!


  1. I have tears in my eyes after reading this. (And I even knew most of it already.)

    What an inspiration this is. ... as are you, dear Audrey.

  2. Those two situations are so inspiring. And, I agree, so true, how we are to love each other as God so loved us. You were faithful to His word. And, He brought you through your time in prison stronger and better then ever. My moto is... "God has given us ALL we need on this earth to take care of ourselves." Including living in perfect peace. You found your perfect peace in those situations. Audrey White, you continue to amaze me. I can hardly wait for the book!

  3. Hey Audrey, only someone that's been there / done that can truly appreciate what you endured and how you handled it.

    In an effort to make sure that my family members weren't caught off guard and clueless if ever in jail, I took time to tell them what to expect and how to deal with it. I even taught them martial arts and how to take weapons away. Up until now I thought I'd covered everything including asking them to watch Jail/Prison reality shows.

    Now, I have to confront them about the most important thing that I left out and I have you to thank. That being to locate a Bible and carry it with you, not as a shield but as a tool in which to refer to when in times of stress, need and/or confusion. Then of course one will need to have faith. Until then. Thanks.

  4. I SO needed this encouragement this week! Thanks for the reminder that what God wants me to know is ALWAYS right at my finger tips...if I will just trust in His ability!

  5. Hey Audrey, Welcome back to the saddle. It's good to be free, sort of free, that is.

    Rock, Paper, Scissors. Who would've thought that; Paper beats all & those on it, don't even know it, until they blog about it? Thanks.