That was what popped out at me as I read the email.
The school sent all the parents a note regarding the arrest of a young man who worked at the school as a lunch supervisor. He had allegedly sexually interfered with a 6-yr-old boy while babysitting him.
I visited the police website and it was mentioned that the man worked exclusively with children and police believe there were more victims. They showed his picture. There he was - practically a kid himself, with that kind of scraggly facial hair young teen boys have when they try to grow a beard. His eyes were a distant blue, and medium length red hair partially covered his flushed cheeks.
He didn't look like what you consider a sexual predator. Alleged sexual predator.
Then again, what does a predator look like?
I looked into this kid's face, into his eyes. I tried to find the humanity in that mug shot. I searched the picture as if to coax out his pain, to source out why he would do the things he did. And this is something I do this all the time - whether it's a petty thief or a serial killer. I try to find that little nugget of compassion for them, something that I can nestle in my hand and try to grow into something deeper and wider.
It's not easy. Sometimes I wonder what the point of that spiritual exercise is. Maybe I am trying to relate too much. Maybe I hoping that the person has a second shot at life. Maybe I just want reassurance that we're not a bunch of neanderthals. I know that people make bad decisions. There is a scale, of course, of what "bad decisions" stretches upon. Having that second slice of cake can be seen as a poor choice, but molesting a child? Stabbing someone?
It's a stretch.
There are many people who would easily throw the match to the pyre in a public square and think nothing of it. Let the bastards burn, they'd say. But I have a soft spot for those who are maladjusted to living. I made many bad decisions in my active drinking days. I made questionable choices and had many unacceptable behaviours. Criminal behaviours. Was I a bad man? Should I be heaped onto the pile of wood and flesh and flame?
I too have a mug shot.
It's perception, I suppose. If that 6-yr-old was mine, all my spiritual nature may go out the window and folks would have to stop me from clubbing that babysitter with a shovel. What's to say that people didn't want to do the same when I drove drunk with my own 3 1/2 yr old in the car? Is it pointless to try to find that glow of good in others? I know it exists, even in the most evil of people. It may be a dying ember, but it's there. It gives me hope, even in the face of tragedy.
People ask why Bad Things happen to Good People. Where is God when those poor children are being hurt, when those people are being victimized by horrid crimes? Free will. We were given free will. People do things propelled by ego and pride and rage and the myriad of things that fall under Free Will. My understanding is that God is in the healing, not the crimes. God is there when people rally around someone. God is there when we rise above our pain and help others. God is there when we rise above the dirt.
I'd like to think that God was there when people reached out to me and helped me in my darkest days. Even with the weight of my history and actions resting hard on my shoulders. People still saw that light of good in me.
So that is why I always seek that in others. I know it's there. And of course, some folks need to be taken away from the rest of society for good. Some people are beyond help or rehabilitation. But that doesn't mean there isn't that little spark inside, underneath all the pain, anger and misery.
What I find is that it's in my best emotional and spiritual health to see the flame of good in everyone. It doesn't absolve people of their misdeeds, but it gives me pause to reflect on our humanity, our frailties, our weakness. But in the face of these things, I see the resiliency in others, the faith, the merciless kindness. This is what lights my spirit. This is the human condition in its entirety.
I feel sad for that boy and his family. I also feel sad for a young man who could have given so much to the young children in his charge. Somewhere in those mug shot eyes, there is a flame.
I know there is.