The other day I was cataloging the book The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. I was flipping through it and was intrigued by the chapter on the perfect relationship. According to the author, the perfect relationship is when you love and accept the other person unconditionally and don't keep trying to make them change. The example he used was your relationship with a dog. A dog is a dog, and you don't expect it to be a cat, because you know it is a dog. You also don't try and change it into a cat because you know it will never be a cat. AND, if you really would rather have a cat, you go out and get a cat.
Today, I was thinking about how this really applies to prison, and helps put things in perspective and allows you to keep your sanity. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, prison library patrons will look you in the eye and lie to your face. That's just the way they are, because that is one of their coping mechanisms for dealing with the harsh reality that has been their life. Somewhere along the line they were given the advice to "deny, deny, deny" anything where they could be implicated. Personally, I used to have a huge problem with people telling me lies, especially when I knew they were lies. It would make me so angry, and I would do all I could to get to the bottom of it. But, I have now realized that if people are going to lie, they are going to lie and that is their shortcoming rather than a reflection on me.
So why should we continue to work as prison librarians, if people are the way they are and they're not going to change? I was also pondering this question today, and I have decided that it is an issue of training. What is child rearing, but training tiny humans to act in ways that are beneficial to society? Unfortunately, some parents are more concerned with getting high than with training their children to become productive members of society. Some people can overcome the lack of training and not end up in prison, but there are many who end up incarcerated. Enter, the prison librarian. We fill in for parents who were less than stellar by correcting poor behavior, rewarding good behavior, and steering people towards positive leisure time activities. We also don't lie to them, we have no ulterior motives (other than to introduce them to good books muahahahahaha) and we expect them to speak proper English and not swear when they are in the library. Basically, my job is to re-train my patrons and model the behavior that I expect of them. But again, if they choose to continue on their own path, that is more a reflection on them because I can leave work every day knowing that I did all I could to better peoples' lives and one day it will get through.