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Will second chance make a difference?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Sometimes you learn the lessons of life in the most unlikely ways. I had an opportunity this week to hear from a handful of Sikeston residents who had run afoul of the law. Now these weren't hardened criminals by any means. They were just ordinary people who stumbled or their kids stumbled or a friend used them in some way that caused pain in their lives.

All of these residents were asking for a second chance in a way. They wanted someone to hear their side of the story, to understand that they were not to blame and to explain how these circumstances would not happen again. As fortunes would have it, I was the one selected to hear their stories and decide if they deserved that second chance.

And here is where that lesson of life begins.

Just like you, I complain and moan from time to time about situations in my life. My aches and pains. My concerns and frustrations. My unmet needs and wishes, etc. I assume we all lament how we wished some aspects of our lives were different.

So there I sat with three different people who made my tales of woe seem like a petty pity party. These people faced obstacles far beyond any I have ever faced. You name the social problem - abuse, drugs, poverty - they were present in virtually every case. They each started life with nothing and will most likely end life that same way. They say they have tried to improve their positions in life. I'll take them at their word though I wouldn't bet my life on it.

One woman was raising three young children plus a grandchild. Their annual family income was barely enough to feed the family. Their choices were not just limited - they were non-existent.

The second gentleman was a chronic alcoholic. He battled health issues related to his drinking problem. He relied on others for the basics of life. And he knew his life would never change for the better.

And finally, the young woman betrayed by a friend. Facing eviction with two small children, she had no place to turn. Even armed with a fistful of resumes, the job prospects were limited.

The stories were all sincere, all true and all sad. And had I the time, I could have interviewed a hundred more in the very same circumstances. Actually, the number could have run into the thousands given enough time.

Now that lesson of life is easy to understand. No matter how dismal things may seem, the truth is that someone else has it so much worse than you. It's a lesson I have been taught all of my life. But sometimes when it smacks you in the face, it hits real close to home.

Everyone deserves a second chance. Yet hidden deep inside the eyes of these people was the realization that even that second chance will not be enough to change their circumstances. They did not speak those words but their eyes said it all.



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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen