The Traveling Monk

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Once Upon a time there was a Monk who lived in China long, long ago. They called him the Traveling Monk.  Many people looked upon him as a great and wise man. Some even looked upon him as a God … BUT a few looked upon him as a fool ... !  

The story goes that he was on a mission to teach and educate people everywhere he went.  The Traveling Monk and his companions, (3 or 4 fateful followers), would stop at the gates of every city along his route and the Monk would begin to preach and teach.  Because he was a well-known religious speaker, many people of the villages, upon hearing he was at their gates, would come out to wish him well. They would bring him food and water to support him on his travels.  

The story goes that as he arrived at one of the stopping points along his route, there were a group of people from this particular village who came out to chastise, ridicule and curse him. They swore, cursed and even threw rocks at him.  They called him dirty names and even called him a fake.  There lashing out at him continued throughout his stop.  After the allotted stopping time was up, the Traveling Monk announced that he must depart in order to remain on schedule.  However, he informed those people who were swearing and cursing him that he would be returning along this same route in a few days.  He told them that he would stop again so if they had more things to say to him or rocks to throw at him, or more hate to cast upon him they would have another chance to do so!   With that the The Traveling Monk and his companions departed.  

His traveling companions were perplexed. However, they had been following the Traveling Monks for many years and they had seen what appeared to be many miracles along the way so they decided to remain quiet! 

After the three days had passed, the Traveling Monk and his companions again arrived at the place where the towns' people had cursed and thrown rocks at him.  The traveling Monk yelled out to them, “I am here, please come out so that you may continue to swear, curse and throw rocks at me.”

The villagers were perplexed.  They began to ask each other,  why would anyone in his right mind subject himself to the kind of treatment that we have given him?  After much deliberation and arriving at no reasonable answer, the villagers concluded that this man, this Traveling Monk, must be someone very special and someone well deserving of our utmost respect.   

The village chief ordered all the villagers to go home and bring food and drink for the Traveling Monk and his companions, … and we shell rejoice with him.  All the villagers complied, they began to sing praises and were happy and asked the Traveling Monk to stop by their village often and rejoice with and teach them about life.

This of course is just a story as many stories are …

but this one became very real in my life! 

Let me explain:

Most of you know I am a Retired Army Colonel.  But only a few of you know that I am also a Retired Correctional Peace Officer with the State of California Department of Corrections.  What you may not know is that many and I dare say most of the young people that I worked with and tried to help were rapidly becoming harden criminals with little to no chance of ever developing a desire for help and most simple refused any help.  

During most of my time with the state I worked with sex offender units.  And, like it or not, some of those guys were quite intelligent and had an exceptional understanding of the art of persuasion.  My approach during counseling these guys was always from an intellectual standpoint.  This approach proved to be very effective.

However, during my last couple of years with the state, I was transferred to Gibbs unit in Norwalk Ca.  They told me that because I was so effective with the sex offenders, (or so it seemed), they wanted me to transfer to the Gibbs unit because those guys were … “Hell on Legs”.  The inmates living on the Gibbs unit was considered to the worst of the worst … Bad! Bad! Bad!  and some even worst!

Upon my arrival on Gibbs, I was immediately told that the counseling approach I used on Sutter, would not work on Gibbs. These guys were tuff and after a short while I began to believe that the approach I used in communicating with these guys was definitely not what was needed.  I decided to I try a more aggressive approach but quickly realized that I was getting No Where FAST.  At Sutter, more than 90% of the assigned inmates seemed to look forward to MY group talks. I  was the unit Story Teller and my stories seemed to have an exceptional effect on many of the detainees.  But on Gibbs, there were only about 10 or 15 guys who would even be willing to listen to what I had to say.  These guys were harden and required a doubling of my efforts … the were far less impressionable.  I had to dig deeper!  

The real test of my style came about sixty-days (90), after I started working on the Gibbs unit.  Shortly after I checked in one day and began making my rounds to see how everybody was doing.  My first stop was to visit with a newly arrived inmate, (detainee), let’s call him inmate M.  Inmate M had arrived over the previous weekend and apparently was in the process of establishing himself.  As I approached his cell, he took a quick look at me and began cursing and calling me every name in his book of, (the worst possible names one can call another).  What was his reason?  Hell, I don't know. Some of those guys need no reason for doing anything ... anything.  

His attack on me continued and continued and continued.  Each time I stopped by his cell he immediately began to curse me and would have thrown rocks or anything else at me if it was available.  Of course I "wrote him up", but if you are in jail for a gang related murder without any chance of getting out within the next twelve to fifteen years and maybe never, as was his case, a write up seemed like sweet attention for him!  

As his cursing continued it began taking his toll on me.  He was literally coursing me to death.  I was beginning to wonder just how much longer I could stand his constant and brutal attack on me.  

Rapidly approaching my wits end, I had already tried everything that I knew.  As I left for home one Friday, I began thinking that perhaps I needed to pull the plug … Retire!  Why not … I don't need this constant beating … It's not worth it.  BUT I am not a quitter, (and of course my mother’s Don’T Quit thing kept hunting me so … I decided I would not be forced to retire, not by inmate M or anyone else.  Inmate M. was not going to run me off … but I realized I had to do something … I had to come up with a plan.  

I decided to go for a walk.  Walking has always been good thinking time for me.   And as had almost always been the case, that walk produced what I was looking for … another possible way of getting through to inmate M.  It was radical and perhaps on the wild side, even a bit crazy, BUT it would also be constant with the strange and sometimes crazy ways that I did things many times during my 22 plus years with the military and they always seemed to work my favor, so … Why Not!  I have always believed … there is always a way!  I decided to go back to work and try a seemingly very, very radical and crazy idea. 

Monday afternoon when I returned to work I went looking for inmate M. to try out this crazy idea that came to me over the weekend.  After checking in I immediately began making my rounds.  As I approached inmate M's cell, he was ... ready and waiting.  He immediately pounce on me.  He began cursing and shouting and calling me every distasteful name that he could come up with.  I stood there for a little longer than normal and then I interrupted him.  I told him that I needed to check on the rest of the guys AND as soon as I finish checking on them, I would return to his room so he could continue to curse and test out all the new names that he could come up with.  

I then proceeded to check on the rest of the guys.  This took me about fifteen to twenty minutes.  Upon my return to inmate M's room, I noticed that he was lying on his bunk.  I politely tapped on his door; he looked at me, got up, and walked over to his door, looked closer at me and returned to his bunk … without saying a word!  I walked away wondering what the hell had just happen.  During the rest of that night I made my rounds about six or eight times.  Each time I stopped by inmate M's room … He remained quiet!

The next day when I returned to work and after I checked in I began making my rounds.  As I approached inmate M's room I noticed that he was standing at the door.  Hell, I thought, here we go!  But this time it was different.  Inmate M. yelled down the hall to all the rest of the inmates on that wing.  He said, "My Caseload, (that's Me) is coming down the hall and nobody better  "F..K with him!”

My God I through: That Crazy Traveling Monk … It worked!  

After that time, I devoted all of my skills at really trying to get into the minds of these young men.  

Initially my approach was misunderstood by my superiors and especially my boss, but as time passed she spent less time in my face.  And my satisfaction level continued to rise.   

And although my PhD supervisor and I had never seen things Eye-to-Eye, during all of my eight (8) years with the state, about six to eight months after I had retired she called me.  She said now that I am gone and based on all the feedback she was getting from many of the inmates on the unit … I owe you an apology … Apparently, she said, " your way of doing thing was obviously very effective,  “Thank you Mr. D. and God Bless"!

As my mother and my Uncle Joe would have said …. "Your answers can Always BE found within YOU"!

PS:  I don't know about the "The Traveling Monk Story" as to weather it was true or had ever happened, BUT I can tell you this:  Inmate M, and I …. Well, that's as true as anything I have ever put to paper!

PPS:  I don't know where or when I read The Traveling Monk story.  I wish I could meet the person who wrote it.  If I could meet that person, I would thank him/her for this beautiful gift that was given to society … to the World" … and especially to me.

PPPS:  I hope this little story become of service to you …. and If you enjoyed it … “Pass-it-on"!