Ripping Off the Covers

By Margaret Gainer

Margaret Gainer, is a long time volunteer Buddhist chaplain with CIC Ministries. On Saturday, October 12th, she gladly shared a story of freedom at an event to honor the work of CIC and the Reverend David Robinson titled Jail Break: Freedom on the Inside.

‘So one afternoon, Dave and I were on a training run and took off out of the CIC office with a big cartload of books. We rolled along to M5 and we got into the building and into a unit. Dave flopped a great big cardboard box up on the table, BAM! The men all gathered around; they were very interested. We both knew that hard bound books are not allowed to be given out in the jail, and the men knew that too. Of course a hard bound book was in that box, and of course somebody wanted it.

The man knew the rules too, and he said, “is this OK?” Dave said, “Sure, just a minute.” Dave took the book and RIP! RIP! he took the covers right off the book. Wow! I was so impressed! I’m a middle class person, and I have never seen anyone rip covers off books before. It would never have occurred to me to do that.

Soon enough, I got into my own routine of visiting men and women at Elmwood. A woman asked me for a little Buddhist book of quotations, so I went into the CIC office and sure enough there was the book, a little book with a pretty cover on it. I thought this might fly, it’s really small. I went to visit the woman in W2. We talked, and I showed her the book. I said, “I’ve got to clear this with the officer, but this is just what you were asking for.” Of course, true to the rules, the officer said, “She can’t have it! It’s got hardcovers!” I thought, well not for long! So I myself went RIP! RIP! and I gave it to the woman. She was pleased, and I was pleased to see the surprised look on the officer’s face. I have to say it was fun to be a white haired lady tearing stuff up!

But something deeper happened that day. With that gesture, it was more than just giving out the pages of a book, something about that action felt powerful to me. Why? I’ll tell you I have been pondering that and here’s what I think:

Watching dave tear a book apart and now doing it myself might look like destruction, but really it is transformation. The book, yes it’s in pieces, but the important part, the text, has been liberated from everything that was forbidden about it.

Now the man or the woman is free to receive the text, and I am free to give it. Tearing covers off books when necessary, symbolizes for me the radical guidance that Dave has given me and many people, to use our strength, our discernment, our presence of mind, our training and the gifts of our own personalities to tear through the rigid boundaries of the jail and to bring love right through the hole. Thank you Dave’