Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Even More Fruits of Labors

Wow, I can't believe it's been a year already. I have been a Wiccan Prison Chaplain for nearly two and half years, but it was a year ago this month that I got my ID card and began my Carcer Via Program exclusively at one Prison. I've been going there multiple times monthly since I got my ID.

It's been a hell of a year, so much has happened.

I remember when I first started there; Mid-Summer was my first appearance on the yard, alone. It's not difficult to pick out the Pagans on a Prison yard on Mid-Summer. When I approached them and waited my turn to enter the circle they "closed the door" in my face, as it turned out they thought I was the Catholic Chaplain, its all a long and very entertaining story.

We had fun re-telling the tale to the newer inmates last Friday as we celebrated our first anniversary. To my surprise they held a formal ceremony, to honor me.

They made me cry, those hardened criminals.

In the beginning there were some minor difficulties, I blogged about them here, here, here, here and here. We have come so far in such a short time, and the tides has changed very dramatically. I have come under fire, I have been threatened, I have been lied to, I have been bullied and harassed. But this probably doesn't surprise you, after all were Pagans, it comes with the territory right?

But what if I told you this has all come from my fellow Pagans? Yes, my would be friends and colleagues. Apparently I am doing to good of a job and others in our field are not happy with my success, which really makes me question their motivations and their priorities, which in theory should be the inmates... right?

Last month I was asked to speak at the Prisons new employee orientation. I gave a crash course in Paganism and Wicca to nurses, counselors and other staff who will have direct contact with inmates. My job was to teach them in thirty minutes what it took me almost a year to teach the administration, that we are not Devil worshipers. I was introduced as "one of his Chaplains", it's amazing how vailidating something so little like that can be.

When I was applying to the Chaplains academy, I was unable to obtain the required letters of recommendation from those Pagans who woulda' shoulda' coulda', instead I was threatened and chastised for trying. As it turned out, I got in, but it was the Prison that wrote me two of the most amazing letters of recommendation I have ever received. "...an asset to the Prison, the Department and the State..."

When I refused the ego appealing offers he made, it was a Pagan who threatened to discredit me. But to who? The Prison? The inmates? To you?

Last Friday they renewed my security clearance and issued me a new ID for another year. I am treated with dignity and respect. I am acknowledged by friendly staff and appreciated by inmates, and most of all, I am openly accepted, as a professional Wiccan chaplain, clergy in a State Correction Facility.

I have done so much, with so little, for so long, that now I can do anything, with nothing.

These are the Fruits of my Labors.

Proof that it can be done.

More Fruits of Labors

I have on many occasions mentioned how blessed my life has been. One on my greatest blessings has always been my Dad(s).

On at least two occasions (here & here) I have shared about my Father(s). My biological father was around during my early life. I knew him, but due to his lifestyle I distanced myself from him. Fortunately I had another one.

They both served as equal and opposite examples, of how to be and how not to be. I really wanted to be like him, he was cool like the Fonz. He always rode a motorcycle or drove some kinda hot rod car, when he had a car. He got lots of chicks, a different one every time I saw him and always lived in really cool places, a different one every time I saw him. I went to visit him every time he was in jail.

I was just like him, I had wrecked a few bikes and been through a few cars too. I had lots of girlfriends, they loved my bike. I moved around a lot, and even lived in an abandoned KOA lodge by the ocean for a while. I could drive my bike right inside the back door so no one could see it, and I lived upstairs in the loft and I was cool, just like the Fonz. When I got sent to jail for being just like him, I even got the same cell. Aaaaaaay...

That was the day I realized I was idolizing the wrong one. I had often joked that my other Dad was like Ward Cleaver, straight and narrow. Square. He worked over time, double time, night school, weekends, and still had time to throw a ball at my face and teach me how to tie my shoes and to aim when I pee. He put up with all my crap, all my phases, all my mistakes, all of my teenage angst, animosity and arrogance. Golly Geez Pop' howja do that?

We went camping last week, we do now every Mid-summer just before Fathers day. We talked and smoked cigars, it's our thing. We talked about life, kids, grand kids and "step-kids". He told me how proud he was of me, for what I had done with my life and who I had become. This kind of compliment was NEVER given, it was earned. I am the fruit of his labors, which is the best fathers day present a son could ever give or receive.

and that was the best dam cigar the Beaver have ever had...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt

In all my life I had never been selected for Jury Duty, until I moved to Visalia. Since I've been here I have been selected once a year for every year of residence. This usually means I spend a day with a good book in a large room of people who are really not happy to be there.

This time was the first time I actually had my name called, and was send down the hall. This time was the first time I was seated in a courtroom and witnessed the selection process. This time was the first time I was selected.

I was selected reasonable early in the process, asked to review a paper containing twenty questions and asked if I had a yes answer to any of them. I did, in fact I had several and was so sure I would be disqualified. Which I was not.

Hind sight is 20/20 and I listen in amazement to some the reasons and excuses for not being eligible for jury duty. The most impressive was the economy. He claimed to be so concerned with the economy that he was certain he would not be able to focus on the trial and be able to serve without bias based on his own interests.

I was an amateur in the presence of greatness.

When the long difficult yet incredibly entertaining process was done we were given a briefing on the subject of the trial, the only detail I am comfortable indicating is that it was criminal. That night at home I explored the fear I was feeling. At first I didn't want to be bothered by Jury Duty, didn't want to be stuck in a room for hours.

Other people had valid reasons, a funeral, a surgery, responsibilities and obligations. I actually didn't have any serious scheduling conflicts, I just didn't want too. I wanted to watch. I wanted to listen. By the end of the day I was so interested in the case I would have returned even if I had not been selected, just to know.

But I did not want to sit on the jury. I work closely with inmates in their environment, they are not let out into my area, I go into theirs. Late that night I realized I didn't want the responsibility of deciding his fate because I have an intimate knowledge of a guilty verdict.

It was difficult to keep my mouth shut. No doubt anyone who knows me well is laughing. But it was so hard. So hard to not ask a question, so hard not to point out an inconsistency. So hard not to talk to the other Jurors on breaks. We were not allowed to discuss the case in any way shape or form until deliberations. Stop laughing.

By the time we sat down for the first time, I was convinced of my position on all counts and was not going to be swayed from it, I knew it. But what was everyone else thinking? Was I the only one? Was I going to be the deadlocker? How sure was I, did I have the intestinal fortitude to hold out no matter what everyone else thought?

We will never know, because it never came to that.

Deliberations lasted less than a half hour, ten of us were rock solid and two had some questions. I was not alone, it was unanimous.

Justice has prevailed and I will sleep so good tonight.

Blessed Be.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Fruits of Labor

I am so proud of my kids. My younger daughter Has been an Honor Roll student for almost three years running. It's like the Olympics; they give you a bronze your first time, silver the second and Gold for your third. Since then she has been accepted into the Gate program for advanced students and if she keeps this up next year she will get a letter from President Obama.

My older daughter is loving Military School and is accelerating academically as well. She also was selected for a special program, as one of her schools top ten students she will be participating in an computer technologies internship program to create taylor-made computer systems for various organizations.

My own labors are bearing fruit as well, our Coven has been a legally recognized religious organization for a few years now, but recently we stepped up the game and filed for 501(c)(3) church status. We are now Mill Creek Church! More on that as it develops.

As I lay my ear to the ground I can hear the stampede coming, there is much more fruit to bear, and it is with eager anticipation that I must wait to make some important announcements...