Monday, January 27, 2014

"Like a human being"

Last Thursday afternoon, as we shared a cup of coffee, I stood with a young man in the howling, freezing, biting wind. 

He didn't take a meal, he just wanted a hot cup of coffee.

He went on about how good it was of us to come.

I responded with the truth, "I'm just here hanging out with good people."

As we talked, he thanked me again, saying, "The world needs more people like you, Larry."

I replied, "Well, thank you, but I could say the same about you. The world would be better off with more people like you."

He hung his head slightly, "I don't know about that.  I'm afraid it would be darker than it is."

Remarkably, he went on to tell me that he had just left prison and, like about everyone in his situation, was having a tough time finding a job.  He told me that he had completed 36 job applications with no job offer coming back to him.

Then he said the most startling thing.  "You treat us like we're human beings here.  That's not true in many places, Larry."

Later that evening I enjoyed dinner with a room full of physicians. 

When it came my time to speak, I told them about my young friend on the corner.  I noted that they treat and care for people as a professional pursuit, and that we all remain grateful for their skills and commitment.

But I went on to reference my young friend's comment, noting, "The most important thing for us all is to treat people like human beings in everything that we do.

The wisdom of "the Corner" continues to amaze, direct and inspire me.



Anonymous said...

Amen! Once you see it, it seems so obvious. And yet it's still not easy for most of us to do consistently.

Anonymous said...

Larry, tell me if this is true. I have become friends with a man serving a long prison sentence in Texas. He wrote to me that Texas pays its inmates not one penny for any work they do. He is indigent and even if he could earn 25 cents an hour that would make a difference. It seems that one of the purposes of the Texas prison system is the dehumanize the inmates. I send him money when I can and try to be some encouragement to him. He has no one in the world.

Richard Corum

Elisabeth Jordan said...

What a neat story. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

RC: Texas does not pay inmates. They get points for good behavior and it looks good for parole hearings, but no money. That is actually typical and by no means limited to Texas. And, yes, almost every prison system in the US (again, not limited to Texas) dehumanizes its inmates.

Anonymous said...

Unless the inmate belongs to the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a Christian program in which there are too few.