“Nobody’s ever loved me like you do,” said the orange-clad girl as she sat with little bare feet drawn up in the chair in the chaplain’s office at the County jail. Innocent looking yellow curls framed a troubled face. Her name was Tami.”
That startling statement was made after our acquaintance of about 25 minutes during which time I had found out:
That she had been raised in church but she was “beginning to have doubts,”
She was a school drop-out because she “had a kid,”
Her parents had her baby but “they wouldn’t let her see him very often”
She was a dancer – a stripper – because it was “a way to make some money,”
She wanted out of stripping because “she wanted her baby back.”
People who used to care didn’t care anymore. “They just talk about me,” she said.
She would get out of jail that week, so I asked for her phone number.
“Nobody’s ever loved me like you do.” I rehearsed those unbelievable words. I could have
drawn my cloak of righteousness about me,
smugly rejoiced in my Christian charity,
thoroughly basked in my good works,
formed words to tell my friends about my saintly behavior –
except for one thing. I knew me.
I knew I had played the roles of others she had known all of her nineteen years.
I was the teacher who hurriedly filled her paper with red X’s.
I was the mother who folded clothes and told her to go to bed.
I was the father who bought her a car but let someone else teach her to drive.
I was the neighbor who looked on as the little latch-key kid let herself into the house at 3:37 each day.
I was the observer when the boy down the block started showing up at 3:45 each day.
I was the Sunday School teacher who noticed she was getting rather pudgy around the middle.
I was the mother who told my kids not to play with her anymore.
I was the gossip who let everyone know that I had noticed first.
I was the pastor who decided, for the sake of the other kids, it would just be better not to follow up on her absences
I was the public servant who took her baby away.
I was the disgusted driver who read the marquee, “Adult Entertainment! Best girls ever! Lovely Lora, Magic Mira, and Cinnamon Cyndi and Racy Rhonda – and Torrid Tami.
I was the voter who hired the policewoman and paid for the jail – to lock her up for the good of society, of course.
But, finally, finally, I was the volunteer chaplain who took her phone number, and for that, she felt loved at last.
Two weeks later, a phone call to Tami.
“Hello, Tami? You might not remember my name but I am Oneta Hayes…”
“Oh, yes! You were the woman at the jail,” she responded.
“Yes, how are things going with you?
“I’m back out in the real world.”
“That’s not the real world, Tami. I’m praying for you. Are you going back out tonight?”
“Then I’ll pray that you will fall off the stage”
“Oh, no!” She responded, and we shared our first – and last – laugh.
“I don’t know how to help you yet, Tami, but if you want out, I’ll ask around and I’ll call back when I have some ideas to give you.”
“Yes, I want out. Do keep praying. And will you call back again?”
I hung up. When I called back later, a man answered. I tried again; the man answered again and told me not to call back. I lost her.
There was a little girl who had a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good,
she was very very good.
But when she was bad, she was horrid.