Working with young people in schools and women in the prison system reinforced those lessons. After my first session with a group of seventh grade students, I hurried into the prinicpal's office to thank her for the opportunity to work with them and rave about how talented and delighful they were. "How did you decide who would be in my class," I asked. "They are such a great group of students."
She literally took two steps back. "They are the worst kids in the school." I left her office wondering which of us was more stunned.
The following week I asked the students how they had been chosen to be in my class. They reinforced the principal's statement. One girl seemed amused that I didn't know. She said they let me think the best of them instead of the worst. Treating them with respect and making it clear that I expected the best from them had been a winning situation for me as well as the students. There were no limits based on false expectations, and the young people continued to surprise and delight me with their talents, insights and creative potential.
It was the same in the prison. We didn't ask why the women were incarcerated. The less we knew, the better. Many had been labeled and expected to do poorly all of their lives. The women I met were intelligent, creative, kind and spiritual. Their paths often led them in the wrong direction because of a "go along to get along' attitude. They didn't have enough self esteem to refuse to participate in activities that could get them into trouble. And once incarcerated, their labels, and the labels from others, stuck, whether they were true or not. The white dead nettle, as does everything in nature, has lessons to teach.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
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