I see Mrs. C working nearly every time I go out to the prison to teach a class to the prisoners. I’m guessing she’s in her late 50’s or early 60’s. I don’t know much about her other than she works the gate at the prison. And every time I’ve seen her, it’s always the same. No words, no facial expression and no smile, only hand gestures. If she ever makes eye contact, and that very rarely happens, you can feel her icy stare burning right through you. I believe she could scare anyone from the smallest child or the meanest convict with simple eye contact.
She is always there in all her grouchiness. It’s almost as if an aura of grouchiness surrounds her like dirt surrounded Pigpen from the cartoon Charlie Brown. I’ve always guessed that she’s just unhappy with the world and everything in it. I’ve often thought to myself, “Mrs. C working at the prison is the perfect job for her.”
The very first time I saw her I offered a smile and spoke to her, she didn’t respond. I thought she hadn’t heard me so I repeated myself louder and smiled bigger. She looked up at me with “those eyes” that made me want to look away and motioned for me to “move along.” It made me a little mad at first. I remember thinking “What’s up with this woman?” Since then it has become a personal challenge to get this woman to smile at me. It hasn’t been easy, and I may have bitten off more than I can chew.
She was there this last Monday night when I went out. I walked up to her window with a massive smile on my face and I laid-it-on-thick. “Well, hello Mrs. C. It is wonderful to see you. I hope you’re doing alright, and I hope you have had a GREAT day to day.” It was as if I didn’t even pause between sentences knowing she wasn’t going to respond anyway. She looked up at me with her sharp icy stare, made eye contact and gestured for me to move through the security gate. Another failure.
When class was over Mrs. C was still at the window working. She handed me my driver’s license and I said, “Mrs. C, I hope you have a great night.” Without hesitating and without ever looking up, she very quietly under her breath mumbled, “you too.” I COULD HAVE DANCED A LITTLE JIG RIGHT THERE! Words, she said words to me! I heard them with my own ears. I couldn’t believe it. There was no smile, no eye contact, but there were words for the first time.
That night driving home from the prison I thought about how she’d finally said something in response to me. I knew she’d heard me all those times. I thought about my challenge to get her to smile and how I’m sure she’s loved by someone in this world. I said a little prayer for Mrs. C as I drove home and God reminded me that He loved her.
Who knows, maybe I’m making some head way with Mrs. C. Maybe she’s not unhappy with the world. Maybe, just maybe, she’s not an old grouch. (I still have my doubts.) You know, she did speak two words to me for the first time, but I still haven’t accomplished my goal … an actual smile from her. But hey, I’m headed out there tonight and this might just be the night!