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Serving Productive Time
Cover of Serving Productive Time
Serving Productive Time
Stories, Poems, and Tips to Inspire Positive Change from Inmates, Prison Staff, and Volunteers
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Are you or have you ever been incarcerated? Do you have a loved one in jail or prison? Do you work or volunteer at a correctional facility? Have you ever been the victim of a crime? Do you understand that we all share the responsibility of helping others--"no matter who they are, where they live, or what they have done? If so, you understand that incarceration affects everyone and that only through positive change can people begin to heal and grow.

In Serving Productive Time, you'll read about extraordinary people who are taking tangible steps to make positive changes in their own lives and who are reaching out to help others do the same. Some stories will help you gain a new perspective on those who are incarcerated. Some will help you understand the need to prepare inmates for release and to support them afterward. Others will help you appreciate your freedom and remind you that we all make mistakes. And still others will reaffirm the fact that, although many of us might be imprisoned in some way (either by a limiting belief, illness, or other situation), we all need a helping hand at some point in our lives to lift us up and show us the path to a new life.

Serving Productive Time will leave you with a renewed appreciation of the need for all of us to use our time wisely to make ongoing, positive changes in our lives and to bring others along with us in the process--"whether we live or work inside or outside the razor wire.

Are you or have you ever been incarcerated? Do you have a loved one in jail or prison? Do you work or volunteer at a correctional facility? Have you ever been the victim of a crime? Do you understand that we all share the responsibility of helping others--"no matter who they are, where they live, or what they have done? If so, you understand that incarceration affects everyone and that only through positive change can people begin to heal and grow.

In Serving Productive Time, you'll read about extraordinary people who are taking tangible steps to make positive changes in their own lives and who are reaching out to help others do the same. Some stories will help you gain a new perspective on those who are incarcerated. Some will help you understand the need to prepare inmates for release and to support them afterward. Others will help you appreciate your freedom and remind you that we all make mistakes. And still others will reaffirm the fact that, although many of us might be imprisoned in some way (either by a limiting belief, illness, or other situation), we all need a helping hand at some point in our lives to lift us up and show us the path to a new life.

Serving Productive Time will leave you with a renewed appreciation of the need for all of us to use our time wisely to make ongoing, positive changes in our lives and to bring others along with us in the process--"whether we live or work inside or outside the razor wire.

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    First Impressions

    Gary K. Farlow

    Like most people, I had a Hollywood image of prison: smoke-filled dormitories inhabited by tattooed bodybuilders carrying hate and homemade weapons. I arrived at North Carolina's Central Prison on a Friday evening. I wore my fear and trepidation like an aura as I, a pallid 128-pound weakling, stepped into my worst nightmare. It was like the old television commercial for E. F. Hutton. All conversation and card games came to an immediate halt when I walked into the dorm. All heads swiveled in my direction to size me up. My first thought was, I'm going to die tonight. I was about to learn just how misleading first impressions can be.

    I never knew his real name. 'Preacher' was probably in his late fifties and, despite imprisonment, carried the demeanor of one who hadn't a worry in the world. As fate would have it, I was assigned to the bunk immediately over him. After a couple of days of observing me in my self-imposed isolation, Preacher approached me carrying a soda and a Bible.

    Now I always considered myself to be a Christian. I mean, I was brought up in the church, baptized, and 'saved,' so I must be a Christian, right? Yet, like so many, I tended to view God as some sort of 'celestial Santa Claus' I called on only when I wanted something.

    'You look like you could use a friend,' were Preacher's first words as he handed me a Bible and a soda. My suspicions must have been obvious. Preacher tilted his head back and laughed. 'Don't worry yourself. I ain't gonna hurt you, and I want nothing from you. My friendship and the Bible are free. You can repay the soda when you're able to.'

    My relief, as well as all of the anxiety and apprehension I'd kept bottled up inside, suddenly burst forth. Tears flowed, and my body slumped like a deflated balloon.

    'You can live in prison one of two ways,' Preacher explained. 'You can serve time, or it can serve you.'
    Somewhat puzzled, I asked, 'What do you mean?'

    'Well, it's obvious. God intends for you to learn something. You have a choice now, just like you did when you committed your crime. It's called free will. You can spend your years consumed in anger, bitterness, and blaming everyone and everything else, or you can accept responsibility for your actions and make this time work for you and count for ­something.'

    'You mean, sort of like when life gives you lemons and you make lemonade?'
    'Kinda,' Preacher responded. 'You have the opportunity, albeit forced upon you, to better yourself—get a handle on your problems, pursue an education, and develop a talent. It's all up to you.'

    I stared dumbfounded. I thought, Is this guy trying to tell me to be grateful for prison? 'It sounds as if you think I should be thankful to be here, Preacher.'

    Shaking his head, Preacher replied, 'No, Gary, not at all. What I'm trying to tell you is that you should make the conscious choice to not waste this time. Have something to show for it when the time comes.'

    Preacher left Central Prison just a few days later. As is the case, inmates are a transient population. When I think of him, I'm reminded of seventh-grade literature class and a book entitled Brief Encounters. It focused on the fact that we often meet people in our lives who we may know only for a short time but who have a lasting and profound impact on us.


    ©2009. Gary K. Farlow. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Serving Productive Time by Tom Lagana, Laura Lagana. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the...

About the Author-
  • Tom Lagana believes that one person can make a difference. He is dedicated to living a positive, successful life and helping others to do the same.
    When Tom was a child, his mother, a registered nurse, often volunteered with the American Red Cross and would take him along with her. Influenced and inspired by her loving example, Tom continued his own volunteering activities and, as a teenager, started with fund-raising projects for his school. In his adult years, he served to help solicit funding from corporations and employees for the United Way of Delaware.
    He has served extensively in the prison system throughout the United States, working with inmates. He is a volunteer in the Emergency Department of Wilmington Hospital, part of the Christiana Care Health System in Delaware.
    In 1994, he was honored as a recipient of the Jefferson Award for outstanding public service. He and his wife, Laura, have two grown sons and two grandsons who are carrying on in the family tradition.
    Tom graduated from Villanova University in Pennsylvania with a degree in electrical engineering and worked as an engineer for more than thirty years. In his corporate career, he was often asked to deliver technical presentations. As his passion for inspiring others evolved, he learned the value of sharpening his public speaking skills.
    Since his transition to a different career path, Tom has facilitated more than one thousand personal development and management presentations nationally and internationally. Through his refreshingly humorous presentations, laced with innovative audience interactions, Tom inspires people everywhere to become their best.
    Tom's life experiences have led him to coauthor two highly successful books in the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, including Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul. He and Laura are coauthors of Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul, Serving Time, Serving Others, and The Quick and Easy Guide to Project Management.

    For more information about Tom's training programs, and to schedule him for a keynote presentation or seminar, please contact:

    Success Solutions
    P.O. Box 7816
    Wilmington, Delaware 19803
    (302) 475-4825
    E-mail: Tom@TomLagana.com
    Web site: http://www.TomLagana.com

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Serving Productive Time
Serving Productive Time
Stories, Poems, and Tips to Inspire Positive Change from Inmates, Prison Staff, and Volunteers
Tom Lagana
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