Pride makes us artificial. Humility makes us real. ~ Thomas Merton
I visited Alcatraz a few years ago. It’s a sad and haunted place. Alcatraz was designed to break people. The weight of it all still hangs in the air there.
My first job after college was as a Correctional Worker. It was a job for which I was exceptionally ill-suited. I was 21 and while my Psychology degree qualified me, my personality didn’t. I was inexperienced, naive, easily intimidated and phobicly adverse to confrontation.
Unfortunately, I’ve always interviewed well.
I worked in a residential facility for women that was a stop over between jail and integration into the community. Most residents came to us after serving prison time. The offenses ranged from multiple DUI’s to the killing of a Federal Marshall.
As the newest staff member, I was assigned most of the pat and strip searches. When it was time to do random drug testing, I was the one who watched while the residents used the restroom to make sure they didn’t dilute their UA’s.
Although Corrections was miles outside of my comfort zone, I wanted to make a difference. I know the women I worked with could sense my hesitancy and tentativeness. I was always polite but so uncomfortable. Years away from being broken, I didn’t know anything about humility.
I thought understanding the socioeconomic/environmental/cultural reasons for behavior would enable me to help/fix/cure. More than anything, I was intimidated and embarrassed – reactions which shifted the focus back onto me. Because I was embarrassed, I robbed the residents of yet another portion of their own dignity and worth. I looked at people without seeing them and missed the opportunity to look into their eyes and pray that they might see some glimmer of God’s grace.