My social work life brings a new person, circumstance or situation to my attention every day. It’s not until I mentally connect to my inner self that I realize my work goes so far beyond licenses, degrees and a strong writing sample. It seems that people, whether social workers or not, sometimes overlook the basic, and focus on the complicated and wonder why they cannot understand a particular person, problem, or situation. People are more than their circumstances and much more than the labels we put on them. One must look deeper to understand what is within.
So, yes, today I sat with a murderer. This man sat barely a foot from me at the same table and we talked, and had a laugh or two and all the while I knew that he had killed someone. Not only did he kill someone but he committed this murder at the age of 11. Yes, eleven. At eleven years old he was labeled, violent, aggressive, defiant and psychotic. He spent the next thirty years of his life in the confines of the penal system. First, the juvenile penal system then graduating to the adult penal system and finally being released just a little over three years ago. Still unable to read or write very much, the average person might have given up or returned to a criminal environment and possibly back to prison just out of sheer discouragement and hopelessness. It’s quite a feat to obtain a job when you have a felony on your record and ‘murder’? Well, let’s just say I hope no one I know ever has to try.
Still plagued by flashbacks and nightmares of the murder that happened so long ago and the ensuing incarceration, he has been linked with a mental health agency and is now on medication that helps him to sleep and helps him to keep an even mood. He still has a long way to go but I must say he has grown and matured since his release and is making every positive step he can with a little help along the way.
The take away from this; don’t judge. Learn who a person is before you decide how much value to give them. Try to understand their specific circumstances and how your interaction with them might make a difference. I like to think my interaction with this man helped him in some way. It may not have been anything I said but maybe he just saw me as a helpful person he could look to for assistance that knew his history and wasn’t afraid. After all, it wasn’t just his poor choices, but also the choices made for him as a youngster that ultimately decided his life course. What I liked about this young man is that he learned that although he could not change his past, he could do something about his future.
Some might be thinking that I wrote this for other social workers. I wrote this for everyone. Far too many times I see and hear people being judged for their past and misdeeds. If someone judged you on every mistake you made how would you feel? Could you handle it? I don’t know about you but I would probably feel awful.
So be kind to one another no matter what the circumstances are. You might teach them something or even better, they might teach you something. Well, that’s my story with a Murderer. Now, I know you wanna hear about my sit-down with a He who is a She. J