||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
What's In A Name
By: Dale Recinella
About twenty years ago, I started helping out at the noon meal of the Good News Soup Kitchen in Tallahassee.
It was located in the city’s then worst crack/prostitution district, halfway between the State Capital and the Governor’s Mansion.
I showed up everyday in my three piece suit to help from 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
The staff assigned me to “door duty.” That meant my job was to ensure that the street people lining up to eat waited in an orderly fashion.
Everyday, I stood at the door for an hour, chatting with the street people waiting to eat.
Before I came to Good News, “street people” was a meaningless term. It defined a group without defining anybody in particular. From the comfort of
my car, my suburban home and my downtown law office, street people were just “those people out there somewhere.”
Then, one day, an elderly woman named Helen came running to the Good News door. A man was chasing her threatening to kill her if she didn’t
give him back his dollar.
“Tell him he can’t hit me here ‘cuz it’s church property!” she pleaded.
In true lawyer fashion, I explained that Good News is not a church but he still couldn’t hit her. After twenty minutes of failed mediation, I purchased
peace by giving each of them a dollar.
That evening, I happened to be standing on the corner of Park and Monroe, a major intersection a few blocks from the State Capital and outside
my law office. In the red twilight I spied a lonely silhouette struggling in my direction from Tennessee St.
“Poor street person,” I thought, as the figure inched closer.
I was about to turn back to my own concerns when I detected something familiar in that shadowy figure. The red scarf. The clear plastic bag
with white border. The unmatched shoes.
“My God,” I said in my thoughts, “that’s Helen.”
My eyes froze on her as she limped by and turned up Park. No doubt she would crawl under a bush to spend the night. My mind had
always dismissed the sight of a street person in seconds. It could not expel the picture of Helen.
That night, as I lay on my $1500 deluxe, temperature controlled waterbed in the suburbs, I couldn’t sleep. A voice in my soul kept asking,
“Where’s Helen sleeping tonight?”
No street person had ever interfered with my sleep before. But the shadowy figure with the red scarf and plastic bag had followed me home.
I had made a fatal mistake.
I had learned her name.
First published: The Talahassee Democrat, March 1996
© 2008 Dale S. Recinella & The Talahassee Democrat.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
Your name and information will never be used or shared with anyone. We promise!
Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed