The Gross National Debt

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Amongst the other things I do, going to prison is a regular event. (I never get tired of that!)

I visit the state lockup in my community regularly for church services. The State of Georgia decided I'm good enough to be a state-certified prison minister. Going and seeing those guys really gives me a boost.

For more'n a year now as I walk in through the double gates, concertina wire overhead, a flock of small birds bounces from coiled wire to coiled wire chittering happily. On a recent visit, I noticed a nest in a corner on a post.


This just now, as I wrote that above, occurred to me. The nest is in the inner fence. The birds roost in the inner fence in the coils of concertina wire. None of them roost on the outside. They also get inside the coils at the top of the fence, settling in at least one layer deep. 


Getting to these birds is certainly not impossible. They get in there. Climbing the chain link fence and slipping across the wires is no problem for the No Shoulders (snakes) that are abundant in the woods a little over 100 yards away. Rats could easily run up and down.

Falcons, hawks and owls, now there's another matter. A screech owl probably could get in through the coils, but that night predator would be going after prey only a bit smaller than himself. Probably not going to happen.

But the birds would have that same protection on the outer perimeter.

The birds also congregate at the gates. The concertina wire is thickest there. So not a great surprise. Yet they still go to the inner gate.



These birds willingly enter a place where most humans want to leave. They seek the security of an artificial briar patch.

You can make all kinds of analogies about prison walls and bars are no barrier to a free mind. The simple fact is, few men who leave that place as a former "detainee" ever want to go back to spend more time as a ward of the state in the Iron Bar Hotel.  Sadly, many will make life choices that will send them back. In a sense, they do want to go back, I guess.

These birds not only enter there, but make it a home, a permanent dwelling. Yes, I have seen a dead bird at the foot of the fence.

They seek safety and find it. They can also leave anytime they wish which makes a major difference. If they were trapped, once freed, they would never go back. A trapped animal learns to avoid the same situation in the future. These birds do not see the trap because for them, it does not exist.


As I pass through the gates when it is light outside, the birds are chirping and chittering. I speak to them. Why? I just do.

Heading out, the sun is down and they sleep. By now they are accustomed to the SLAM! of the two gates closing so they do not budge. In the beginning, the gates WHAMMED! shut and they were all a-twitter. They have learned it's nothing to be concerned about. I leave them to sleep as I exit.

Each time as I pass, I say to myself "There's a message here. A lesson. There is something important going on here."

Each time I pass, whatever it is dances just beyond the reach of this thing I call a mind. It is there, like a deer on the edge of the field just at twilight, or is that a tree and a shadow. 

Regardless, it is something, whether or not I can make it out clearly.

Perhaps that is the message. Perhaps that is the lesson. Maybe it is something to be studied, marveled and wondered and yet never fully understood.

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