I think it’s interesting, although not always fun, to examine the unexpected “bad stuff” that happens in every life. Exposure to crime and experience of disaster both call forth deep and lasting emotional responses. They contribute to our sense of safety in the world. Both may show human nature at its very worst or at its very best. Criminals commit acts which run counter to decency and virtue, but those who fight crime often are motivated by a love of justice. In the midst of disaster people may show courage, selflessness, generosity, kindness and compassion – and they may also show greed, callousness and selfish opportunism. We can be sure that our lives will include some “bad stuff,” but the lasting effects are often due to our responses more than the events themselves.
Here are some questions about crime that you might want to explore. What is your experience with the criminal justice system? Did you know any criminals personally? Describe them: did he or she “look” like a criminal? Were their crimes the result of bad luck or poor judgment? What drove them to commit a crime? Were you ever a victim of a crime? Were you ever a witness to a crime? Did you testify at a trial? Did your work involve you in the justice system – were or are you a lawyer, a judge, a bailiff, a cop, a legal secretary, a social worker, child welfare case worker, court reporter? How did your work change, augment or improve the American criminal justice system? Did your opinion of the justice system change over time? Did you become disillusioned, cynical, bitter? Or more determined, more idealistic, more passionate? How do you think the justice system protects the American people? How can it be improved?
Or if your experience with crime and criminals is limited, how about exploring your experiences with the myriad of disasters that can occur? Almost everyone has an experience of a disaster – a fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, shipwreck, train collision, car crash, explosion, etc. And everyone has a story too. Tell the story of your brush with disaster. Write about the heroism you saw — the kindness, courage, generosity, tenacity of people coping with disaster. Or write about the greed and selfishness you saw, if that was your experience. How did your disaster experience change you? How did it change your perception of others? What did you do after the disaster that you hoped would keep you safe from another one? Did you move away? Did you campaign for better safeguards?
If you’d care to share a story about this topic, please leave a comment here. At the end of each month I’ll gather up the Sharing History comments and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing my e-book: your choice of a Making History Workbook.