Sunday, January 30, 2011

An important moment and a simple truth

My very first employment after graduating from Berkeley was as a Deputy Probation Officer in Alameda County, California. As a naïve 22 year-old, working in the criminal justice system was a huge awakening. One story is special for me.

I was doing adult investigations, which means I wrote short reports on various adults convicted of (mostly minor) crimes. I had an office in a new building near the freeway in Oakland. The office had what we now know as cubicles, but in 1967, it seemed only that the walls did not reach the ceiling. There were doors, but they were glass and I felt comfortable with that arrangement since I suspected many of the people I met were not my friends.

On this day, I met a young man who told me that his family was on “welfare” and had run out of money. It was the end of the month. He told me that he had two children and only a piece of bologna to feed them. He asked if I could “loan” him some money. I gave him 10 dollars. In those days that was a good bit of money.

The next day or so, I went to see my supervisor, Mr. Green, who I considered a very wise man. I asked if he thought I had been stupid? Had I been hustled? Was I a fool?
The conversation was very brief. He simply told me that I had a choice. I could be one of two people. I could be someone who risked being a fool, but also might help a family to eat. Or, I could be someone who is never a fool and who never takes the chance to help someone. Who did I want to be? Good question.--- I am grateful that Mr. Green shared his wisdom with me.

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