I live by the choice theory. I have choices in every situation I encounter and each of those choices has a consequence. I don't know if that is the actual definition but it's what I believe. I may not like the choices I face but I still have to make one. There is power in choice. I may not have always made the right choices but, for the most part, my life is where it is because of this theory. I preach the choice theory to my students, every chance I can. Some get it. Some don't. But it doesn't stop me from preaching the power of choice and how they need to think of the consequences of their choices.
On my way to school today, I made my first choice. I stopped at Starbucks to treat myself to a skinny carmel latte. Today as I stood, waiting for my beverage, I did some people watching. As it turns out, people who work in the real world DON'T wear sweats to work. Or jeans. Or tennis shoes. Nor did these folks need to arrive to work by 7AM; seems these folks have a 8:30 or 9AM start time.
As I stood there, wearing jeans, tennis shoes and my fleece jacket, I noted the woman beside me, wearing dark, grey slacks and a wool jacket. (and super cute shoes). I wondered what type of job she had that allowed her to be able to make the choice to dress nicely and stop for Starbucks. What kind of choices had she made that led her to a job that required 3 inch heels? And why did she order a Pumpkin Spice without whip? What is the point of no whip on a drink already laden with calories?
Four hours later, I was sitting next to a convicted felon in the state penitentiary. Like the woman at Starbucks, this man went to work today. His job today was to talk with 25 students about the consequences of his decisions. He killed 4 people at the age of 20 in a gang fight. (Yes, I chose to sit by this man; the students were pretty scared of his giant bulk. But giant bulks don't scare me - you should see the men I grew up with). This is a man who has little choice in his day. No Starbucks. No fancy clothes. No freedom to drive a car to and from work. He made a choice with dire consequences and now he is living those consequences.
For over two hours, four inmates shared how they spend their days. All of them live as positive leaders and role models in their prison community. They answered every single question our students asked. Two of these men teach other inmates in the education system. All have jobs in the system (making .42/hour). Three have children of their own. And each face life in prison without parole. Each of them chose to speak to our group about their lives, in hopes of making an impact on younger people today. In that sense, the inmates and I aren't very different from one another.
Minus the prison tats and life sentences, of course.
I'm not foolish enough to think that these men are completely rehabilitated. I believe justice was served and they deserve the consequences of their actions. Surprisingly, they would agree. They regret their choices. But I believe, these four inmates I sat with today, have accepted the consequences of their actions and now make choices to be a positive impact in their community. It isn't much different than what we all should do in our daily lives. Make positive choices that lead to positive consequences. Some choices are harder than others but we must own the power that comes with choice. And we all should make choices that make a positive impact on those around us.
Otherwise, what's the point?