Art of Communication: Danny’s Story

The Art of Communication is a program offered to qualifying adults in custody (AICs) at a number of Oregon Department of Corrections’ institutions across the state. Developed by Chaplain Trime Persinger at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI), the course teaches AICs how to build positive relationships and manage conflict situations through everyday conversations. This post is part of a series which aims to share the stories of AICs who have been impacted by the program.

Below, AIC Danny White explains how the program helped him work through a conflict. AIC White shared his experience with Trime Persinger, who wrote it down as follows:

One time I was going through the food line. I asked for a little bit of salad and the server, Nelson, gave me a giant handful. He was going to give me a burnt corner piece of pizza. I asked him if I could have a different piece.

Nelson said, “Who do you think you are? You’re no one special.”

Me: “I don’t think that I’m anyone special. I’m just asking to get what everyone else is getting.”

Nelson: “You’re going to get what I give you. You’re not anybody special. Just keep moving on down the line.”

I asked the kitchen coordinator, who was standing behind Nelson, if I could talk with him about it. He did not respond to me. Nelson said, “Don’t make me come out there.” He started to pull off his apron as though he would start a fight.

Nelson was a neighbor of mine in the dorm. I said, “Fine. You know where I live if you want to do that.” I was angry. I moved on down the line.

Later I realized that I had handled it wrong. If I didn’t like what Nelson served me then I could throw it away or talk with the kitchen coordinator. I didn’t have to react.

That night I saw Nelson in the bunk area. I approached him and said, “Can I talk to you?” He looked up at me in fear and astonishment. I said, “I thought about what happened in the cafeteria and I want to apologize. You are the server and I should just accept what you give me. I want to apologize. I’m sorry for the way I behaved in my anger. If I didn’t want it, I could throw it in the trash.” I put out my hand and we shook hands.

Nelson said, “I’m sorry. I’m under a lot of pressure in the kitchen. Everything gets out of whack sometimes.”

Nothing has happened between us since then. Now Nelson gives me regular portions. We seem to have a silent understanding of both doing the right thing.