“Sure you are. Everyone is.”
“Only a broken person would say that,” I said. I was not enjoying the turn of our conversation.
He shook his head, moved his spaghetti around on his plate with his fork and sighed. I sat back and watched. I didn’t want this meeting but had agreed to it. It was the best way to get some business done when phones weren’t constantly ringing and the running into the dreaded voicemail everyday. At least this way we could figure everything out and move onto the next step, whatever that was.
He looked up and took a sip of his water. “Is that why you want referrals from me? You think you can really help these people?”
“No, I think I can harm them greatly. You found me out…” I said.
“You’re being sarcastic, aren’t you?”
“Very. Of course I think I can help them. No, strike that. I know I can,” I said and reached into my briefcase and pulled out several letters from judges all praising my program. I pushed them towards him.
“I’ve seen these. You faxed them over, remember?”
“Yes, I remember. So let’s cut to the chase. Why did you want to meet?”
He leaned forward and looked at me for a moment. “Because I wanted to put a face with the voice and see who you are.”
“Well, here I am and I’m not broken,” I said and stared back.
“But most people who do the work you do are. I mean, that’s why they do it. To help themselves, really. You know, to keep themselves straight by talking to others. You sure you don’t have a record or been in jail before? Any stints in rehab or anything like that?”
“Look, I’ve had my security clearance for years. I’ve been run through the system many times. You can find that out anytime you want, so you asking me that just doesn’t make any sense. You’re a probation officer. You know better than I how the system works. You have the option of sending your parolee’s to me or not. It’s very simple. It’s not rocket science and unfortunately, I can find plenty of clients without you, so where are you going with this?”
“I guess I just don’t buy your premise these guys can be helped. Nobody can be, really,” he said.
That made me sad. “It’s too bad you feel that way. Ever thought of getting out of your line of business and into something else?” I asked. “Maybe work at McDonald’s or Wendy’s?”
He laughed. “Are you serious?”
“Oh, so you think people can be helped?”
“Most, yes,” I said and sipped my iced tea. “But you have to know what you are doing.”
“And you do?”
He shook his head, smiled and looked out the window. “Are you usually this confident?”
“Are you going to keep saying ‘Yep’?”
“Yep and you walked right into that one,” I said.
He looked sad and worn out. His food had gotten cold as we talked.
“What can I help you with? What is it that is troubling your soul?” I asked.
For the next 1.5 hours, I listened and occasionally said something. He poured out his soul to me.
When he was done, he wiped his eyes.
“I can’t believe I told you all of that,” he said. He seemed embarrassed. I was used to that.
“So, you still think help isn’t possible?” I asked.
A sheepish smile crossed his face. “Well…maybe…”
I picked-up a dinner roll and threw it at him. My aim was perfect. It hit his forehead and bounced onto his spaghetti.
“Wow, so very immature of you,” he said.
He brushed the crumbs off of his forehead and threw the dinner roll back at me. His aim was perfect also. I now had crumbs in my bangs.
“So let’s get to work on you,” I said.
I reached back into my briefcase and pulled out a binder. I slid it across the table to him. “Here. You are now officially enrolled on my program. Please read the first 5 pages and then call me when you are done,” I said and got up. “Oh, and by the way, you’re paying for lunch.”
“But I’m not a criminal. Why do your program?” he asked.
“Because it’s never been, or ever will be about criminals.”
“It’s not?” he asked and began to flip through the pages.
“No. It’s about broken people, like you. It’s about good people who have lost their way, some of which got caught and some did not. You in?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Help is not betrayal,” I said.
One month later, I had a happy and cheerful person who had quit quitting on himself.
I love helping the helpers.