“What am I supposed to do?” Its a cry of desperation. This person has run out of options. There is nowhere to go. How did he get here. That does not matter at this point. He needs a solution now!
After we have dealt with their immediate needs, we need to make sure they never get in that position again. However, if the source of their problem is large, like society, there is not much that they can do but to work the system, such as it is and survive.
The day I met Earl, the wind chill was hovering around -25 below. The pain from the biting wind on exposed flesh reminded me to seek shelter as soon as possible. I just dropped my wife off at her job downtown and had driven over to Bobby & Steve’s Auto World for my morning donut. Because the wind was so nasty I decide to enjoy it inside at the little bar that was there.
Earl was black guy of medium build dressed in a warm coat. Still he looked really cold as he sat down next to me. “My hands are freezing. It is really tough on days like this, without gloves. “
“Oh I can believe it” I responded, trying to hide my surprised that anyone in Minnesota this time of year would not have something to cover their hands.
“Yah, I don’t have a job. I am from Chicago trying to find work, but they won’t let me have a job. I recently got out of prison, 7 years for drug possession.”
The bells and whistles went off in my head. “They won’t hire you because you have a felony.”
“Yah, it wasn’t a violent a crime, not gun involved and…all I want to do is to provide for my kids.” He repeated this many times throughout our chat. He told me of a warehouse job he recently had. His boss told him he was a hard worker and good with customers. But when they finally got the background check back, 30 days after he started he was let go. He had a felony.
Throughout his life he had been in and out of prison. All for drug possession and related charges. That how it was in the ghetto, everyone did it. And Earl had been clean for at least 7 years but that did not matter to employers. He was a felon, who wanted to provide for his kids.
This reminded me of a highly experience engineer I knew who had a DWI many years ago; but the large telecommunication company would not hire him…because he had a felony on his record. Even though he had a clean record since then and had not drunk in years, he could not get a job because of his felony.
In America the vast majority of companies will not hire anyone with a felony of any type on their record. In certain cases, such as this engineer you can get it expunged from your record…if you have money to pay a lawyer. In Earl’s case he is too poor to do anything about it.
What are felons who have gotten their life together supposed to work?
Find some company owner who will hire them? Not many will even consider it. Then what is next for the man or women, welfare? But at what cost to society. Go back to prison? I won’t even answer that.
I don’t want to blame corporations for this policy. Their policy only reflects the general fear of society. All felons are the same have broken the law and are dangerous! This is no different from what Victor Hugo wrote about in the 1800’s in the story Les Miserables.
We have a problem America that the law cannot fix, society must fix it.. This means each of us needs to deal with it. We need to show compassion to all, even though we think they might not deserve it.
“But I have rights!” Yup, you can hear it every day, “I have the right to do such in such, and the constitution says I do. I am going to file a suit to get my rights”
Simply put, America is selfish. America has a hard time showing compassion for Earl. “It was his fault. He came from the hood so of course he was on drugs. Everyone living in the hood are on drugs.” Or how about the good one, “I forget about them.”
Why does America have such a hard time with showing compassion? Two reasons: First, we hardly ever look outside ourselves. Me first. But more importantly, second. True compassion can only come from God, who showed the greatest act of compassion by sending His Son for our sin, for our blindness, for our selflessness.
Still there is some compassion in all of us no matter who we are. America CAN show the compassion to Earl, if only motivated by the drag to the economy caused by poor unemployed felons.
Let us not follow after Scrooge who asked, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” “Let them go on Welfare. They are felons and I don’t care what they did. They don’t deserve to work.”
Think about it, think about THEM.
Earl needs gloves…his children deserve support.