Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I was shocked cynicism.

I was sharing how excited I am, with an acquaintance, about the work I am doing with the Jacksonville Re-Entry Center. (JREC)

JREC is a resource center for the newly released from prison. Sheriff Rutherford worked to create this center and has asked Character Counts! in Jacksonville to create life skills classes based on the 6 Pillars of Character.

I fully support the work we are doing to help these people recreate their lives. Helping this population  will make a difference in our overall health as a community. These marginalized individuals need all the support we can muster if we are hoping for our world to heal from all the pain and frustration we have endured these past years.

As I shared my excitement over the possibilities of the classes I am creating and leading, he promptly asked me why I was wasting my time with "those" losers. I stood there dumbfounded. Which any one who knows me is a rarity!

A few moments passed and he then continued to tell me that I seemed like a smart woman and why would I involve myself in such a loosing battle. I continued to listen, in order to calm myself actually. I could feel the rage welling in me at his small mindedness and his lack of hope.

I have worked for most of my life to create, in one way or another. Today I help others recreate lives. I foster the process of healing and forgiveness and to build upon small fragments of hope.

I listened to his prejudice as he went on about how "they" would never change. How "they" were just a drain on society. The longer he went on,  I suddenly realized this was personal. I quietly asked him why he believed this so strongly. He paused with a stunned look and said, "My brother can't change!"

The tension in the air was thick with emotion. I held the space and told him I deeply believed in change. That even just one person could make a difference. I asked him about his brother. He told me he had written him off the day he went to jail a few years ago. I stood there furious and full of the deepest compassion for his pain. 

He looked at me with anger, frustration and even shame. Somewhere along the line I realized he had been hurt by his brother's action. I told him that I would pray for him and his brother. That I hoped that someday he could forgive his brother and help him recreate his life.

I walked away in a daze, with an even greater conviction that the work I do is needed and vitally important to our community. I walked to my car and sat there crying. I could feel the pain, the hurt, the shame that so many families deal with. I could feel the fear that we as a community feel when a convict asks for a job or chooses to live in our neighborhood.

I do believe in redemption. I believe that each and every one us us needs to believe in the possibility of change. I believe we can support those around us to re-create. In our families, churches, schools and offices, we are in relationships with people who suffer from addictions, depression to name a few...

I challenge all of us to believe in change and support someone around you to believe in it too!!