So often we read or see images in the news and elsewhere that demonstrate the power of words to destroy, tear down and crush hope. My experience with this was all too real; trying to find meaningful work after a prison sentence is often an exercise in futility as one employer after another just shakes their head (when they respond at all), telling me by their words that I should have stayed in prison, that my value to society is over because of time spent behind bars.
My wife has been one to continually work to "Speak Life" into my heart; I have to confess that there were times when my words to her caused her pain. It was as if that one supporter to whom I owed so much (she stuck with me throughout my incarceration when she'd pretty much decided to divorce me prior to my being indicted because of my hurtful words) was the handiest victim to my invective and poison that I felt.
The folks at the Chapel Hill Bible Church did much to welcome me with all my foibles and failures, encouraging me and even working with me to keep plugging and not give up. Time and again they were there to pick me up from the latest in a long (450+) failures to find work; I'd begun to resign myself to being a 'house-husband' to Kathy, to be honest while glad for her providing me a home it was a big hit on my ego (hey, I'm a man, I'm supposed to be the bread winner!). I even 'retired' once I hit 62 so that I could provide some income to our home (big deal, after almost 24 years 'inside' my monthly deposit from Social Security was $724.00!). Then an amazing thing happened; a good friend and then neighbor just offhandedly asked me one day if I'd ever considered real estate as a new career. I remember just shaking my head, thanking him for the suggestion and filing it away with all other such suggestions. But it sat there in my head and heart, like a pot on low simmer, bubbling and making me wonder if that was a possibility and a fit for me.
My investigation of this possibility led me first to Chris Barnette, the instructor at the Go School of Real Estate, who was very encouraging, but told me that I should check with the legal folks with the NC Real Estate Commission regarding whether or not they would allow me to be licensed. After speaking with several people there and being told that there were no automatic denials, that a character conference would determine whether or not I would be licensed after taking the Pre-Licensing Class and passing the state exam for Real Estate Broker, so I began the course with some measure of hope that my new career was ready for launch.
But, after successfully passing the final for the Pre-Licensing Class (Chris' apparent intention was that if you could pass his exam, the state exam would have no terrors for you!) and then the state exam, I waited to see what would happen and received a fairly negative response from one of the attorneys representing the Commission. During this time I'd also begun investigating associating myself with a local brokerage; initially when first signing up for the class I was told that Go Realty did not hire new brokers; that I would have to get some experience elsewhere and then, if it was a good fit, move to Go later. A few weeks before we finished the class, however, we were told that this policy was changing and that if we were interested in associating with one of the Go Realty offices, to let them know. I did and was directed to the Go Durham office to meet with the Broker-in-Charge there and discuss my options with her.
One of the core beliefs of Go Realty is that Go believes in change; this is reflected both in the way that they have not only embraced the technology of the 21st Century (no jet-powered skateboards though...yet), but also the idea that people can change and deserve a chance to grow. Karen and I spoke at length about my felony and my struggle to find work and how I'd been led first to the Go School and then to Go Durham. My concern was that if I was associated with Go, it could impact their business and asked her to be sure the agents in the office would be agreeable to my being part of the team. She did check with them all and each told her that they would welcome my being part of the family there at Go Durham. Those words and the countless others I've received from my new family there, have spoken healing and warmth to my heart; I have begun to believe that this is possible after all, I have begun to live in hope of what can be rather than in the dread of what cannot be.
It's far too easy to speak harshly to one another; such thoughts and words spring quickly from our minds because we are all, after all, sons and daughters of Adam. But when we choose life affirming, healing words; when we Speak Life to those around us, we can change the world. My friends and family at the Chapel Hill Bible Church and Go Realty have shown me this; more importantly and without a doubt where there inspiration comes from, Messiah shows the way to Speak Life to those we meet today.