A young man has been coming around more and more. This is an indicator that something is on his mind. I speculated a multitude of reasons but settled on one of two things, he is either gay-curious or he is just fascinated with being able to interact with a real life queer. He is from Micronesia, a place I know nothing about…

However, the more he came around the more I realized it was neither of those things. I realized this tonight as he spoke in his broken English to me. He explained that he learned English from his cellmate in jail. This topic came about after he asked me what I was reading. A question he asks every time he sees me, btw. The answer today was “The Leadership Challenge”, which it has been for days now. When I asked him what books he was reading lately he simply replied “yes”.
After a few minutes of me wondering what this man wants from me I began to question him directly. “What are your plans after prison?” “What type of job are you good at?”  “What county are you releasing to?”

The more questions I asked the more he opened up and then he admitted “When I think about my future, I don’t see anything, just me selling pot.” He said it with his head down and ashamed. Then he tried to make a joke of it, laughing nervously. 

So naturally my next question is “Well, what is it you want to do?” 

He thought for a moment “I don’t know, I got locked up never having a job or GED or any type of education, I came from Micronesia and I had a head injury over there that makes me dumb.” 

He motioned to the back of his head and continued “I don’t learn very fast and I need to do things a lot in order to get them, no one wants to tutor me because of my inability to learn. I’m not smart like you, you read books. I can’t read books, I don’t understand what I can get from book..”

My heart broke because I see him work all day long and he says he has no skills, no one taught him a skill, he learned his job on his own. Who dared tell this man he was dumb…I disagreed.

“Dumb?” I knew he believed it and that tore me up even more “Have you heard of rock, paper, scissors?” I demonstrated the game for him.

“Yeah!” his eyes lit up ” I know that game!” he said excitedly, then he grew suspicious. He eyed me carefully as I spoke.
“Good, watch this closely,” I showed him a pattern “Paper…Rock…Scissors.” I showed him as I said it out loud. ” Now you do the same pattern.”

Without hesitation he repeated the pattern with his hands and vocalized it easily “Paper, rock, scissors…no problem”

“That is precisely my point, you are NOT dumb and you CAN learn. Whoever told you that is wrong. You simply learn different. You are hands on. The proof is right there, you just learned a pattern with great ease, clearly you are not dumb. You are smart and capable. Clearly! Now, what kind of job do you dream of doing?”

Without hesitation he said “Construction” then he teared up “Your right…wow…I can learn, I’m not dumb…”

I could tell the lights went on and things clicked for him. All his life he thought he was incapable of learning and all it took was a simple demonstration to show him otherwise. Then I set his mind at ease and told him many construction companies teach their guys hands on, so he will learn to build with ease and his work ethic will speak for itself.

I tell you all this story because that took fifteen minutes of my time and his life was changed. You never know how you are going to impact someone’s life, its those little moments that count. All I did was genuinely listen, a skill we all possess, and care enough to practice it. Don’t miss those little moments because even though he wasn’t gay, he was still more then deserving of my love. Or maybe more appropriately, I was deserving of this experience…

With Love
Jeff Utnage