The writer, on volunteering as a meditation teacher at a detention center holding men convicted of serious crimes:
It’s several weeks after that first class, and the inmates looking me over don’t seem as menacing, I realize — just interested. I don’t know what anyone’s in prison for, and that allows me to talk as I would with anyone.
But the moods inevitably vary from class to class. Deacon, who had initially struck me as easygoing, is irritable today: The sound of the fan is bugging him, and he says he can’t relax. Finally he admits, “I’m thinking about what’s going to happen when I get out, whether I’m going to be able to find a job.”
PUBLISHED: Feb. 27, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2815 words)
Our story picks of the week, featuring Rolling Stone, Alex Buono, the Washington Post, New York magazine and Orion, with a guest pick by E.A. Mann.
A son of Chinese immigrants learns his parents' native tongue to learn more about who they are and where they came from:
Since we last met, a lot has happened for Daniel. He is taking intermediate Mandarin — not all that close to Shanghainese, but it’s available. And he spent a summer interning in China. He tells me the trip helped him feel “more Chinese” and opened communication with his mom. During a several-week stay at home after the internship, through broken conversation, he learned about her youth in a fishing village near Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. She even showed him a picture of her as a teenager, holding what Daniel understood to be Mao’s "Little Red Book."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 2, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3473 words)
A fire in Prince George's County in Maryland nearly kills two firefighters. An account of how it happened:
"With temperatures climbing past 1,000 degrees, the shield on his helmet curled, and the liner inside his protective coat melted. His protective mask was so badly damaged that an analysis later concluded that it was on the verge of 'immediate failure.'
"'Everything was hot, everything was burning,' O’Toole said. 'It got hotter and hotter and hotter until the point where you just didn’t want to breathe anymore.' Each breath he took 'felt like someone was cutting your throat.'
"Outside, Sorrell was crying for help, desperate to save his friend. 'Come on! Get that line in there!' he shrieked, a bloodcurdling sound captured on a helmet-mounted video camera worn by a Riverdale firefighter. 'My guy’s in there! Go!'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 12, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4867 words)
David Robinson grew up in Washington D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood where young men often died in street violence. He tried to escape it, but ended up dead at 19. "His killing, still unsolved, is the story of gun violence in Washington":
"'I told him, "Guns don’t make you a man!" I told him, "Guns make you a coward!" And he was like, "Unc, man, I know, I know, but these dudes out here, they’re carrying guns, talking about they’re going to do this, they’re going to do that."
"'He was like, "Unc, it ain’t safe out here."'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7562 words)
The life and death of Roy Sullivan, a park ranger for Shenandoah National Park who was struck by lightning seven times:
"A gentle rain fell on April 16, 1972. The Spark Ranger was in a small guardhouse atop Loft Mountain, registering carloads of visitors who were arriving at the campground. Not so much as a coo of thunder riffled the air. Then … KABOOM! Lightning annihilated a fuse box inside the guardhouse. 'The fire was bouncing around inside the station, and when my ears stopped ringing, I heard something sizzling,' Sullivan told a Washington Post reporter who contacted him a week later. 'It was my hair on fire.'"
PUBLISHED: Aug. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5142 words)
Taking the fight against child hunger on the road:
"The driver’s name was Rick Bible, and his 66-mile route through the hills of Greene County marked the government’s latest attempt to solve a rise in childhood hunger that had been worsening for seven consecutive years.
"Congress had tried to address it mostly by spending a record $15 billion each year to feed 21 million low-income children in their schools, but that left out the summer, so the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to spend $400 million more on that. Governors came together to form a task force. Michelle Obama suggested items for a menu. Food banks opened thousands of summer cafes, and still only about 15 percent of eligible children received regular summer meals.
"So, earlier this year, a food bank in Tennessee came up with a plan to reverse the model. Instead of relying on children to find their own transportation to summer meal sites, it would bring food to children. The food bank bought four used school buses for $4,000 each and designed routes that snake through some of the most destitute land in the country, where poverty rates have almost doubled since 2009 and two-thirds of children qualify for free meals."
PUBLISHED: July 7, 2013
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2741 words)
The coach of one of the only all-black rugby teams in the nation says goodbye to his team:
"'Rugby, to me, is life,' said Cecil, who hopes to play in college and for the U.S. national team. 'All I dream about is rugby, all I play is rugby, all I think about is rugby, all I watch is rugby.'
"Bayer wasn't ready to tell Cecil and his teammates that he was leaving. Not yet.
"'There are moments in this office where it's a lump in my throat. Kids are talking about next year. I want to tell them,' he said, 'but it's not the right time. I don't want kids to go, "Screw it, if he's leaving, I'm done. I'm not coming back to school next year."'"
PUBLISHED: June 22, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5613 words)
Our picks this week include The Washington Post, American Prospect, ESPN, Tampa Bay Times, Wired, and a guest pick by Todd Olmstead