It’s been a little over a year since I quit working at a Federal halfway house. I hated that job so much. Every time I say that to someone, they look at me sympathetically and say, “yea, it must have been hard working with ‘those kinds’ of people.” It never fails. That is always the response. And my response is always, “yes, they were hideous horrible human beings. They shouldn’t be allowed to work around other human beings.” “They” were my bosses. “They” were the reason that I hated my job. The job itself had great pay and great benefits. I’d always told myself that for the right amount of money, a person could talk to me any way they like. And I still stand by that, but there is no amount of money that will allow me to sit by and watch people treat other people as if they are less than human. According to my bosses at the time, I was too nice. A pushover. They thought I was going to be taken advantage of. Maybe I was too nice at times. Maybe my lack of respect for a failed system got in the way of my judgment at times, but I stand firm in my belief that regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they’ve been through and where they are headed, that all people deserve to be treated with respect and as humans. One of my supervisors told me once that they weren’t people and I shouldn’t be treating them like it. I bit my tongue (once) and went on with my day. Eventually it turned into them bullying me about being too nice and me not knowing when to shut up and play stupid. I shouldn’t say hello when they come in. I shouldn’t say goodbye when they leave. I shouldn’t go out of my way to give Tylenol if they have a headache.
At this point I feel like I should clarify what the objective of this place was. It was a halfway house. They were halfway in/ halfway out of prison. There were men and women there. No violent offenders. Most of the people who stayed there were there because of drug charges or other silly crimes. There were no rapists. There were no murderers. These people had served their time and were sent to the halfway house aka rehabilitation center to learn how to function in society again after being caged like animals for however many years they had been there. When they got out, some of them didn’t know how to use a debit card. They didn’t know how to use a city bus. Some were from the country and had never seen a “big” city before. But all of them were just like you and me. Lost in this life. They had made mistakes like we all have. Theirs just landed them in prison instead of an insane asylum or a bad marriage or an abusive relationship or the end of a rope or any other place that our mistakes have taken us. So when I couldn’t listen to the horror stories of what the “fourth floor” was saying to the inmates and when I couldn’t take being harassed by my “superiors” anymore, I wrote a strongly worded resignation letter and I quit.
By the end of that day, I had at least 15 new friends on Facebook. There was a small handful that I kept in touch with despite the fact that there is some sort of “law” that says if you work at a halfway house you can never ever under any circumstances have contact outside of the halfway house with an inmate or former inmate. Of course, I call bullshit. I’ve made friends with quite a few of those “felons” and what I have found is that they are some loyal fucking people. There’s no doubt that I could call almost any of them on my friend list and they would show up. I think there is some sort of code though I don’t really know. Honor among thieves and all that. A few of them messaged me after I left and thanked me for not being an asshole basically. And I think that is what it really boils down to. I wasn’t an asshole and I saw them for who they really were: people who fucked up once or twice. And twice this week, two different people from that list have come through for me.
One, I called Saturday to see if he would take Mel to the skating rink and give him money to go because I have no car and I was broke. And he has kind of adopted my kid in a way. He loves him and they get along great. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have asked. But, he couldn’t because he had something to do, but by Saturday afternoon, I had a truck sitting in front of my house so I could take him and Mel had money in his pocket to go skating. Loyalty.
The second happened today. I was off work early and one of the guys had offered to help me cut down this tree next to my house, but I had to keep cancelling (because I’m flighty) so at the last minute I sent him a message to see if today would work because I was already doing yardwork and by 6pm we were cutting shit down. We didn’t get all of it done, but we got the important stuff. And he wanted nothing in return. He was just being nice. Friendship.
And then I got to thinking how some people will so quickly judge a person on their past or their past mistakes and I think it’s just wrong. If I were a religious person, this is probably where I would put some relevant bible verse about he who is without sin, but it seems I’ve given up religion for love, because apparently the two do not go hand in hand. So instead of a bible verse, I guess I will come up with an original quote and say try not to be such a judgy asshole. People are not defined by their past. Dig into your memory and remember all the things you aren’t so proud of and imagine if you wore them on your sleeve for the world to see. You have the luxury of having a secret. Some don’t, but we are all in this life together just trying to make the best of it. And I think we should love each other the best way we know how.