Dammed

Dammed: (adj) restricted

 The directions were simple, clear and accurate.

A friend of mine invited me to join him for lunch at the cafeteria of the prison where he was employed as a chaplain.

This particular penal institution had a back gate where the employees entered, with an electric fence which was turned on during the day and also at night, after the employees had already arrived or departed.

I was coming at a time when the fence was normally turned on, so my friend told me he would make sure it was disengaged for my entrance at 11:15 A. M.

The explanation seemed simple enough, the plan sound.

But when I parked my car and headed toward the gate, it occurred to me that if my buddy happened to forget to turn off the fence—maybe because he got involved in a conversation or was just absent-minded—I might be walking up to a barrier that could hurt me.

Yes, the obstacle before me could leave me dammed. By that I mean, blocking my way to where I wanted to go.

Still, I had an instinct to just trust Reverend Ted. Yet that optimism quickly dissipated when all the rest of the inclinations from my body screamed out in disapproval.

What if honest Reverend Ted, on this day, was somehow or another transformed into Dopey Ted?

So for nearly five minutes I just stood and stared at the fence, trying to discern if it was “lit up.”

There was no obvious answer.

Thinking it might be wise to touch it with something other than my hand, I reached down in a clump of grass nearby, pulled up a stick and nervously threw it toward the fence. It hit and bounced off without any buzzes, whistles or sparks.

Temporarily reassured, I stepped forward to enter, when memories of my chemistry class reminded me that wood, as you find in a tree limb, is not a good conductor of electricity.

Matter of fact, “wood” would be classified as wouldn’t.

So I looked around for something else to use to bolster my confidence that my friend had actually turned off the fence.

I came up with nothing—except my car keys.

Now once again, my chemistry training kicked in and reminded me that car keys are metal and would certainly let me know if there was an electrical current running through the obstacle that dammed me.

Unfortunately, unless I planned on standing back five feet and throwing them at the fence, I would be in danger if I was holding them when I did my test.

Of course, throwing them was ridiculous.

But not so ridiculous that I didn’t end up trying it.

So standing about seven feet away, I threw my metal keys and metal key ring at the fence. Unfortunately, they were small enough that they passed through the hole of the chain links and fell on the other side.

Just then, my friend walked hurriedly toward the scene, staring down at my keys, now at his feet.

“What in the hell are you doing?” he asked.

I paused.

Should I tell him the truth?

Should I share my apprehension, if not complete doubt, over his memory?

But before I even knew what I was saying, and certainly never consulting my better senses, I responded, “Sorry, man. I tripped and my keys fell out of my hand into the air.”

He frowned and stared at me like I was a crazy man he had once had as a friend.

He picked up my keys, walked over to the gate and opened it. I quickly scooted forward and scurried through the opening.

“You’re so weird,” he said.

I had no reason to disagree with him.

It seemed a very appropriate, metered assessment of what he had just experienced.

Chaplain

Chaplain: (n) a member of the clergy attached to a private chapel, institution, ship, branch of the armed forces, etc.

One of the major dangers in life is to be overwrought, which means that for some unknown reason we place greater intensity, importance
and value on some matters than others.

We certainly do this with people’s occupations.

If someone says they work at a grocery store, we probably will not launch into a statement of gratitude for providing food for the masses.

But if someone says they’re a chaplain in a prison or the military, we raise our eyebrows, impressed, thinking we’re dealing with a sacrificial individual who is doing really, really valuable work.

The distinctions we make in life cause our prejudice–because there is such a thing as a good chaplain and also a bad chaplain, just like there’s a good grocer and a bad grocer. There are people who do their job well and people who do their job poorly.

So to judge a person who is a doctor as noble and kind is absolutely foolish. Many Dr. Jekylls are actually Mr. Hyde.

I think it would be very difficult to be a chaplain in the military, for the Gospel he or she would preach would not necessarily be in line with either the stars and stripes or the red, white and blue. Jesus had his differences with capitalism, and certainly was not a great advocate of violence.

Yet I respect the chaplain who brings the hope of the Gospel to people who find themselves in the position of making decisions that have far-reaching effects.

So if we can stop our silly bigotry about occupations and start asking ourselves what makes a good person in any situation, then we will be on our way to truly grasping equality and the wisdom of understanding.

 

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