Punked? Or An Opportunity To Grow?

Cardio class is every Mon, Wed, and Fri. I’ve been doing it for almost 4 years now. It’s basically a P90X workout. I challenge myself by doing it with the 15lb dumbbells. I’m the only one who does this.

Some of the exercises we do are burpies and push ups. I do all these exercises without ever letting go of the dumbbells. So when its time for my hands to come in contact with the floor, I’m actually still gripping the dumbbells, and they are touching the gym floor. This can scuff up the ground pretty bad, so I use a little mat.

As I’m doing my workout, a rec worker (who’s also an inmate) comes up to me and snatches the mat I‘m using. He says, “Your class don’t get mats today.”

I’m thinking WTF, why does this dude even care. So I ask him, “Why do you care if I use the mat?”

He says, “Because I have to clean ‘em.”

I said, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll clean it when I’m done.”

“Oh, your done,” he said, then walks away.

It took a few seconds for the situation to sink in. Then all of a sudden I had a real problem with what just happened. So I followed him into the cage. The cage is where all equipment is checked out from. It’s also where a lot of guys go to fight.

As I walk in, I see him stacking the mat on top of about 50 other mats. These mats are only 2’ x 3’. So I walk around him and grab a mat. He flips out.

“Say man, what is you doing?” he yells as he aggressively rips the mat from me. He’s a big ol bad ass Crip and he takes me as some ol little white dude.

My adrenalin pumps. He’s within striking distance. I’m so close to headbutting him in the face. I feel a familiar surge up through my body. This is a surge I only feel right before the moment of impact. Everything inside me is ready to fight.

I’ve never felt this way and then not fought. Until now.

Somehow I was able to see past my internal rage and focus on my goals, commitments, and promises. During my months of peace & harmony, I was able to nurture the strength to guide me through this potential disaster.

I thought about my family, my lady, and all the people who believe in me and support me. I don’t want to make all those people into supporters of a violent, reckless, hypocritical man.

As I stood toe to toe with this bully, I realized this was an opportunity to grow. So I simply said, “This is hard for me to accept, but you win.” Then I turned and walked away.

As I re-entered the gym, I noticed a lot of guys looking at me. They all saw. Then they saw me coming back with no mat. I can only imagine what they must think. But I don’t care. I’m living for the love and respect of my family & friends, not my prison image.


Steven Jennings


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