“Happy New Year!” I greeted Mr. Y, a patient who I hadn’t seen since around Thanksgiving. “How was your Christmas?”
“It was fine, it was good,” he said. He gave me an update on his recent activities and we talked for a little bit. He was in the 12-Step Program and participated in a bible study group. While the 12-Step Program was facilitated by one of the psychologists in our mental health program, the bible study group was coordinated among the inmates.
“We took up a collection for Christmas,” he said.
“A collection?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
Then he explained that last month, he and the rest of the bible study group pooled their resources including their work pay (15 to 90 cents an hour, depending on their job assignment) for a total of a few hundred dollars. Then they went to canteen and purchased canned soups, ramen noodles, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, and other basic necessities. They identified indigent inmates who didn’t have jobs or family support, and on Christmas day, the bible study group went out on the yard and started handing out packages to their selected recipients.
“Wow,” I said, impressed. “That was very thoughtful of you guys. What a kind and generous thing to do.”
“Guess what happened next,” Mr. Y said.
“The whole yard got wind of it, and everyone came looking for a handout,” I guessed.
“Yep. We started getting all these guys—‘We heard there was free stuff. Can I get some soup?’ And we talking guys with jobs and money on the books.” Mr. Y shook his head. “And then the police come over and tell us we gotta break it up, ‘cause we got too big a crowd.”
“That’s a shame,” I said, shaking my head too. “But I guess that’s how it is. You’re in a prison, so you’re gonna get those kinds of guys, looking to take advantage.”
“What’s that expression?” Mr. Y took a moment to search his memory. “That’s right. ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ ”