Thirty years ago I was drawn to a classified ad in the LA Times looking for a Social Worker with an MSW to visit Jewish convicts in county jails, state and federal penitentiaries – the perfect position for a nice Jewish girl addicted to bad boys.
I “fell in love” with the process of transformation and became addicted to redemption. It has become a parallel process – becoming whole within myself as I experienced the extreme dichotomies as the “bad boys and girls” in jail.
I found a teaching in Judaism that defined my mission:
A great Rabbi’s disciples asked him how he could so readily understand the problems of gamblers and thieves and other troubled men and women who came from the darker places of life. The rabbi explained:
“When they come I listen hard to them. I look deep into their eyes and I discover that their weaknesses are reflections of my own. It is not that I have done what they have done but I sense within me their lusts, desires, weaknesses, temptation. I find in them, myself… Once there was a man who came to me with confessions of his transgressions and though I listened attentively I could find nothing whatsoever that I had in common with him. There was nothing of his sins that were in me. Then I knew the truth: I must be hiding something within myself of which I was not fully conscious.”
I, too, alternated between extremes. I victimized myself, imprisoned in a repetitive cycle of saving the world or destroying myself. I started and abandoned projects, ideas, Gurus and relationships. I was fat or thin, grandiose or self-pitying, in love or in bed.
My spiritual awakening was my conscious decision to hear the call to mission as Divinely ordained. My challenge was to sustain the ordained. I have done that for 30 years, one day at a time. In 1985 I wrote to the Federal Emergency Management Act (under the auspices of Gateways Hospital) for a one-time grant to buy an old house in downtown Los Angeles for men and women coming out of prison who were otherwise homeless. I called it Beit T’Shuvah – the House of Return and Redemption. Today it is a thriving faith-based recovery community for people addicted to substances, dangerous behavior and all the rest of us recovering from the human condition of brokenness. From my point of view – you are either in recovery or denial.