Caleb walks the hall to sit at the side of the man with Hepatitis C, the one everybody expected to die years ago.
He keeps fighting, keeps on living, this feisty old man, and Caleb — arms inked, eyes tender, smile ready — listens to the man talk like he doesn’t have another place in the world to be, though sometimes it does take him longer to visit than it should.
And then he hears about it. He’ll sure hear about it when he shows up to the man’s room.
Caleb is stunned by the way his friend is old timer and kid at once.
“I read today that if you harbor hatred in your heart, it’s like you’re killing somebody. Why didn’t you tell me, Caleb?! I killed a whole bunch of people today and I didn’t even know it!”
Caleb — this 14-year-old boy turned man behind bars, locked up for gang banging and who all knows what — he’s not made for deals and death as it turns out, but for hospice care. For listening to stories and sitting in questions, for giving comfort and making family of lonely, dying men.
Caleb has almost earned his hospice care giver’s certificate so he can provide care when he’s on the outside, in another seven years. He’s a man remade from the inside, and it’s his thanks and presence, his heart and very soul an overflow.
It’s Caleb’s act of worship to sit in the cell with this old man, both of them living out days marked by calendar pages while reaching for a world without bars.
* Caleb is not this man’s real name, but he is a real person. I met him last year on my first visit to the Oregon State Penitentiary, which I wrote about here. Today’s writing is inspired by Caleb’s story as shared with me on my visit to the Pen last week. If you pray, would you please lift this man up? If not, hold a loving place for him, would you? He’s struggling to persevere and needs continually renewing hope. Thank you, friends.