An eerie silence wrapped itself around the camp like a heavy fog. I scanned across the cement and the patches of gravel but there was no one. Not even a correction officer. Maybe it was the cold, the cold that seeped in unannounced turning everything a darker grey. Or maybe there was a scuffle and the officers were called to assist. When Count was called, all inmates not in class or an appointment were required to be on their beds. But the officers, they were exempt. Yet still, no one roamed outside. I was all alone.
Gravel crunched under my feet as I walked from Medical back to Programs. And then, without warning, an officer came on the loud speaker, his voice echoing throughout camp.
“Count’s clear. Count … is clear.”
And just like that, the double doors to the biggest wing of the prison, flew open, a flood of men, heading straight for me.
I walked calmly, hoping that I wouldn’t have to speed up my pace to make it to the door of Programs before they did. And yet still, I had to control my urge to watch them gaining on me. I knew they preyed on fear and I refused to give it to them. I kept calm. I focused on where I was headed. But when I reached the door and turned the knob, it didn’t move. I turned it again, shook it to be sure. Nope, it was locked. Hiding my urgency as best I could, I knocked. No answer. Where were the officers? Where was the rest of the staff? I knocked again, a few times, harder, louder. And still, no one answered. I was on my own.
The mass of men—murderers, rapists, criminals of every kind—reached my side. Within seconds they had created a circle around me, no one uttering a word. I looked around, each one wearing the same clothes, the same blank eyes, the same thin lined mouths. I laughed an uncomfortable ‘don’t do this, oh my god’ kind-of laugh. Still, no one said a word, they just closed in, inching forward, making the circle tighter and tighter around me. I could smell the unfiltered cigarette smoke on their breath, the metallic scent of their sweat. They must’ve been at least five to ten men deep. And I was one woman, on my own, with a few inches of buffer around me. I had no idea what to expect or if I would even survive.
And then, like a dream, one inmate pushed his way through the crowd.
“Don’t worry Miss Betz. I got you.” He turned to catch the eyes of all the men around me, his body completely shielding mine, “I got you,” he said again to the crowd, slowly, threateningly. “Ain’t no one gonna touch Miss Betz.”
And just after he did, someone opened the door.
* * *
When things happen that we don’t have the capacity to fully understand, when our hearts are moved by unnamed emotions, when we are left speechless by something we have never before met, time stands still. And if we are lucky, once it begins again, we realize that in that moment, we were a thread, a thread that is a part of the weave, a weave that brings into being the vast and magnificent carpet whose presence resembles the Divine. And when we do, we cannot help but surrender. Surrender to the knowing that once a thread in the Divine carpet of life, always a thread in the Divine carpet of life.
My Wish for you? That this week, you think of yourself as a thread, a thread connecting you to every other human being on the planet. Without you, the weave is missing a color, it cannot create its pattern correctly, it’s all wrong. Without him, I would have been hurt, devoured, and who knows what else. Without that single inmate honoring his part in the whole, that profound moment of beauty would have been lost forever. Without you, honoring your part in the whole, moments of beauty are lost every single day. But with you, you can make the divine carpet of life that we are all living, richer, more vibrant, more beautiful than your head or your heart could ever possibly imagine.
Weave with me? Weave with me, the best is yet to be.