The first time we met Matthew it was a Friday night. I was out of town, so John was working at Joe’s by himself. John spent hours talking (mostly listening, I think) with Matthew that night. He had just been released from prison, where he spent 20 years. His initial offense was a brawl that ended with a man dead—murder. After 10 years for that crime, he was released.
While he was still on parole, late Christmas Eve, Matthew, his wife and his three children awoke to the sounds of a burglar in their home, stealing all the Christmas presents. In an attempt to defend his family and his home, Matthew shot and killed the burglar. As a parolee, he was not permitted to have a gun in his possession. He was sent back to prison for another 10 years.
Matthew spent a lot of his time in prison studying theology, philosophy and mythology. His understanding of God is an eclectic mixture of random biblical knowledge, pagan legends, aryanism and a whole lot of unique personal interpretations. John’s conversation with Matthew that first night was interesting, to say the least.
Matthew is living down the street at the trailer park that serves as a half-way house. He has been frequenting Joe’s these last few weeks, and I always give him free coffee, since he has had a hard time finding a job. He often talks to me about his wife and his children. All through his time in prison, his heart remained faithful to his wife. He couldn’t wait to go and see her and the kids.
Last week when Matthew came into Joe’s, Scott (one of our volunteers) was working. He could tell that Matthew was distressed. Well, more than distressed. He was angry. He had gone to a court hearing two hours away in the town where his wife and children live, so that he could make arrangements to reconnect with his family. His wife did not show up for the hearing. He doesn’t know where she is or where she has taken the kids, and a family friend told him that she has been unfaithful to him, even has had a baby with another man. Matthew was distraught.
Scott let him vent for a while. Then they began to talk about Matthew’s future. He expressed great frustration over not being able to find a job. He said he was willing to work hard, but finding an employer who is willing to hire a felon is not an easy task. Scott suggested to him that he talk to Carl and get some help from him. Matthew cringed. He said, “Carl’s a sex offender.”
Such an interesting thing, the pecking order. Matthew is a murderer, but “Carl is a sex offender.” The sex offenders are the bottom of the barrel, even in prison. Matthew did not want to receive Carl’s help. He didn’t like Carl. He didn’t even want to talk with him. Scott explained that Carl has been helping a lot of the other felons get jobs. He helps to write resumes and learn how to do interviews, etc. He even has a list of employers who are willing to hire felons. Matthew still didn’t like the idea of talking to Carl.
A few days later, I was serving coffee at Joe’s when Matthew came in with a huge smile on his face. I asked him what was up. Why was he so happy? He announced that he got a job! He told me about his conversation with Scott and how he had decided to take Scott’s advice.
Carl had arranged an interview for him at a roofing company. Matthew went to the interview and spoke honestly about his situation. He explained his past, his crimes and his desires to move forward in life. He told the interviewer that he is willing to work hard, that he just needs a chance to prove himself. They gave him the job and told him to show up for training the next morning.
As Matthew was walking out of the parking lot, the interviewer called his name. He stopped and the man called him to come back. The boss wanted to see him. “Oh no,” Matthew thought, “The boss isn’t happy they hired me. He’s going to tell me never mind, they don’t want me after all.”
When Matthew entered the office, the boss was opening his wallet. He said, “I know you don’t have any money, and it’s going to be a few days before you’ll get your first paycheck. Here’s $25 to help get you through the next few days.”
Matthew came straight to Joe’s with that huge grin on his face. He said, “I want to buy a latte. I’ve never had a latte. Are they any good?
Names have been changed to protect their privacy.