Worth: A Measure of Value
There is an African proverb, "An enemy is a person whose story you haven't heard." I hear. Even better, I attempt to listen. It's not the "I" who is important here, it's the presence of Shanti. So, I listen, and I believe. This belief has conditionality. It is held between us on a path we walk together. Oh, I've heard stories change, deny, even contradict earlier versions, but the storyteller and I are still on a path together, and I continue to believe . My giving the Shanti model of unconditionality challenges the inmate whose life is all about conditions and contradictions, his perceptions of what is possible have too often shrunk as he teeters on a tightrope when he might be walking at least the width of a footpath.
Then I say, so long, with a firm handshake. If I clasp his hand with both of mine, or rest my hand on his shoulder, let alone hug him, I'm subject to censure and to putting the Shanti program into jeopardy: "Limit your physical contact with felons, please." It's a revolving door for me. "I'm outta here" at the end of the day, whether or not my footstep is lighter or my heart heavier; I breathe unfettered air. Of course, I'm coming back! What part of fifty-four miles round trip and six to eight hours-twice a month-isn't worth it?
Worth. A measure of value for me.. I cannot fathom a man's imprisoned ways. But he returns, and greets me with a smile (although he may wait with it until unobserved in our room). A smile: with its own redemptive power. And to this I might add the last line from Eliot's "The Wasteland": " Shantih Shantih Shantih ".
Frederick Bindel, Shanti Volunteer