Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A glimpse of the past

I'm sure everybody reading this has had some thoughts at some point about what makes some people turn out well in life and some end up having nothing but trouble. A lot of it will often be of their own making, of course, I'm not denying that. Some people are habitual criminals, constantly in trouble ... but how do they become like that, while others never have any problems with the law at all and just surf through life? That's a question that I think everyone's asked themselves. And of course a lot of research has been done on that issue. I've read some really interesting work by a psychologist ... I think he's French ... who's done research on murderers and serial rapists in prison, he's compared their brains to 'normal' brains and gotten some fascinating results. But that's kind of beside the point. This post is about something more personal.

I was at the library yesterday - I use the main library downtown - and on my way back to the subway I stopped by to check out the newspaper pages displayed outside the VG building. Completely by accident I caught sight of an article that was about this very issue. They ran it, obviously, in response to a research report that was published here last week about how children of divorce or who lose their mothers at a young age are statistically much more likely to end up as troubled adults. The article is about a 34 year old man who lost not only his mother, but both parents when very young, grew up in various orphanages and foster homes and ended up leading a life of crime for years and years and spending altogether 7 years in prison. It says in the article that he's been convicted on altogether 350 different counts. :-o

What makes this personal is that I went to school with this guy. His name is Geir Strid Moe and he was a classmate of mine for three years, at our junior high equivalent. And this is interesting, because my memories of him just really reflect what these researchers feel that their results show ... that the situation a child finds itself in will shape its future to such a significant extent. Geir was a real troublemaker, the biggest of our year, hands down. He was the kind of kid that absolutely everybody had heard about, someone parents warned their kids to stay away from. You'd always be hearing some new crazy story about what he'd done. And it'd usually be true. :-) He was constantly in trouble, and it was usually trouble of his own making. In other words, he was always doing something to get himself into trouble.

But what I first and foremost remember about him is what an incredibly kind person he was. He always struck me as having, if you'll excuse the metaphor, a profoundly kind and good heart. Whenever there were young children or animals around, he was so protective of them and didn't know how to be kind enough to them. He would never let anyone do anything that might be even conceivably mean to them. It was strange to me back then that he was always in so much trouble, and did so many crazy things, because he clearly was, in his heart, a good boy. He wasn't mean. I remember having that impression so strongly. And I also remember thinking that it was probably because he lived in an orphanage - which was very strange and almost exotic to the rest of us - that he was like that. Because he didn't have anyone to steer him right, so to speak. I really felt that he was 'supposed to' be a really good kid. He had it in him, but he clearly didn't have anyone there to show him how.

I have to think that that must have been really, really obvious. Because, I'll be honest with you, I wasn't that perceptive as a 14-15 year old. :-)

Now he's broken away from his life of crime and works for a very worthwhile organization, WayBack. They do really important work helping habitual criminals start their lives over. I am so glad to hear that he's turned over a new leaf. He really deserves it. He was a good guy, despite appearances. :-)

You can read the article in VG online here.

1 comment:

Paz said...

As I was reading this, I was watching a documentary on a kids reform school for kids that have broken the law. All the kids were from troubled or broken homes and the guy running the home believed that all the kids had good in them, it was up to them to find it.
While I agree with you there are always exceptions, some people are always going to be nasty.