Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Gang Member Touched by an Angel

Remember the TV show, Touched by an Angel? This could have been the basis for one of the show's inspiring stories: an unassuming phlebotomist encourages a gang member to make a big career change.

My colleague, Maureen Nelson, is a career counselor who recently sent me the following story. I'm posting it in The Job Lounge with Maureen's permission.
I had a client in my office a few months ago who was a laid-off phlebotomist. After we talked for a few minutes, it was clear to me that she was an "old soul," though a young woman. (Urban Dictionary: A spiritual person who is wise beyond their years.) I asked her if she'd ever considered becoming a counselor because she seemed a natural. She said people had said that to her before but she didn't feel she needed to do that, because she counseled plenty in her current profession. I asked her to give me an example. She has given me permission to share her story here. She told me about all the times she'd taken blood from skinheads, covered with white supremacist tattoos, and about one in particular:

"He was kind of embarrassed about those tattoos and said he wasn't affiliated with the gang anymore. They kind of feel guilty when someone who is black helps them. I was the only one who could get his vein, and he ended up becoming my patient. At first he was skeptical, but we made friends quickly after I got him on the first draw. He saw that I was good and I treated him like a person, whereas my co-workers may have been rude to him. I told him that I understood sometimes we make bad choices due to influences around us."

She then went on to say that she gave him a referral to a place where he could get gang-related tattoos removed for free. She also suggested that he consider counseling people who want to leave gang life. Later on, she ran into him on the college campus where they were both taking classes. He was thrilled to see her and showed off his tattoo-free skin. He said he'd turned his life around, was getting a degree in sociology and had planned on becoming a counselor to help others.

She said, "I think he'll be pretty good at it, because he was eventually able to talk about his past."

They ran into each other again a few months later. This time he had a friend in tow, one who had just left the gang and whom he had referred to the tattoo-removal program. Both were grateful to her.

She said, "I'm pretty proud of him, and it gives me joy to see I had that kind of influence over somebody. I made him think, gave him hope in a new future, and now he has a way out."

Thank you, Maureen, for allowing me to post this and for your other inspiring stories in the Job Lounge.

1 comment:

Ronnie Ann said...

I love this story. Thank you Maureen and Susan for sharing it with us. Sometimes our ideas of how to apply our job skills get limited by labels and job titles. But in her work, Maureen is able to reach people she'd never meet otherwise. Wonderful reminder.