A dear sweet friend of mine recently said that she was trying, unsuccessfully, to find the good in everyone. Life can be like that sometimes. And it got me thinking…
I used to work for the federal correctional system in Canada. Most of my 18-year career there was spent at national headquarters where we studied things like riots, hostage-takings, suicides and murders that took place inside our prisons to see whether they could have been prevented and what lessons we could apply in the future to avoid these things from happening again.
We also did loads of research to develop and deliver treatment programs for inmates and for those who eventually got let out on parole to help them avoid crime in the future.
I also worked for a short time inside a medium-security prison with a caseload of inmates. It was fascinating and rewarding work.
People always ask me whether I was afraid. I wasn’t usually. These guys were like some of the guys I had gone to high school with. But they had taken a wrong turn, many wrong turns, and didn’t have the inner strength or the outer support to get back on the right track. When you looked at their family histories, at how they were raised, you were left saying, “Well, no wonder they ended up here.”
In most cases:
Their parents were not in a position to help guide them as they were alcoholics or drug addicts themselves. Their home environment was not stable, and their parents were often out of work.
They were abused, either sexually, physically or emotionally.
They did poorly in school. And they were not one of the lucky few who got taken under the wing by a concerned teacher prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty.
They weren’t involved in organized sports, so they didn’t have the opportunity for a coach to guide them and give them the structure that will sometimes “save” a child who does not have stability at home.
And sometimes, all of the above occurred in response to a tragic event in their life, like the violent death of a parent, sibling or grand-parent.
Every one of us has come from somewhere. We were all two-year-olds at one point, running around, laughing, with a shine in our eyes, all the hopes of our parents upon us for a good life, the world being a safe place to explore and play.
And then life happens.
And we turn into who we are.
We are, today, responsible for who we are and the choices we make as a result.
But we can also recognize that everybody comes from somewhere. That inside every one of us, despite our words, attitudes, grievances, crappy behaviour, hurtful actions, successes, bumps and bruises, scars and weaknesses, there remains a part of that two-year-old. And the more we can do to find it in ourselves and in others, the better off we will all be.
It’s a softer, more open view of the world. And it does not mean being naive. It simply means recognizing that everybody comes from somewhere. Even you.
And there’s grace, humility and kindness in that.