When I was nineteen years old, I took a job with the Bureau of Prisons in Chattanooga Tennessee. It was a halfway house for inmates coming out of the federal system. Most of the clients I worked with were double, sometimes triple my age and had spent a long lifetime going in and out of the system. Here I was, this young girl trying to find my authority with them, but my way in life. At the time I still wore the rose colored glasses that told me I alone could save the world.
Often, I could be heard telling my clients there are very few bad people in this world, but there are a lot of good people who do bad things. It’s a belief I have held to as I’ve progressed from a nineteen year old still in college, to a thirty two year old single mom, who now makes her living as a writer. I’ve worked with the mentally ill, adult offenders, juvenile offenders, and now I am an author and editor. Each job has brought to my life its own uniqueness. A richness that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. This is true because of the people that these positions have put me in contact with.
Without the people these positions would have been meaningless. There have been positive and negative people in everything I’ve done, but I’ve found that in all things there are very bad people, just a lot of good people who do bad things. This I firmly believe.
So what’s my approach? Well, I remember the people who were there for me when I was a good person doing bad things. The people who reached out to me when I was a teenager rebelling against God knows what. When my soul was crying out for attention. I remember those who lent me a helping hand when I most needed it, when I was teetering on the edge of right and wrong, and those who drew me back.
With every client I’ve ever counseled, every word I’ve ever written, every day I get up and face a new day, I remember that with one change of my circumstances, that could be me. Because I’m a good person, and I’ve done bad things, and I deserved a second chance. I give second chances, and even third, fourth, all the way up to a hundred chances because I believe that people are inherently good. Sometimes they just don’t always do the right thing.
I’ve taught my daughter one valuable lesson. When someone is not being nice to you, just smile and be nice to them. You never know when your smile might make the difference, and ultimately, they really are a good person inside. And this I firmly believe.