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 Texas : Features : Columns : Letters From North America :
Nothing You Can Do
by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
Every once in a while you do something that really hurts your heart, but you canít fix it for one reason or another. Nothing you can do, thatís just the way it is.

Youíve had this happen to you, maybe you were driving down the road and a dog or cat ran out and you tried to avoid it, but you couldnít and well, you know what happened. You felt terrible, but there really wasnít anything you could have done. It still didnít make it any easier, did it? Maybe you said something to someone that you wished you could take back, but it was just too late and you lost a friend or the relationship was just never the same afterwards.

Weíve all been there and done that. Donít want that t-shirt.-

Well, last week I interviewed a young man to help us at our company. He told me he was forty-one years old, but looked about thirty. Clean cut, just married, baby on the way. Lots of enthusiasm, willing to work hard, one of those guys you know just know is going to do a good job for you and be with you a long time. When I interviewed him, he answered all my questions correctly and like I said, I thought I had a winner.

Yesterday, when he came in, we had him sit down and fill out the rest of his paperwork so we could get him started. After he was finished, he got sent over for training and to get started. The payroll department ran his name through the service we use for background checks and then they came to see me.

This fine, nice looking young man had several pages of criminal history. He had served over eight years in prison for burglary, drugs and assault. I called him in and asked him if it was him or was it some mistake. On his application, he admitted he had been arrested, but said it was for not turning in a rent car on time. Nothing weíd be overly concerned about. Obviously he forgot the rest of the details. He said, it wasnít a mistake, it was him.

He looked like a wounded puppy and I could feel the pain starting inside of him as it probably has done so many times before. He told me these things had happened when he was a teenager, but some of them had occurred ten years ago, so that would have happened when he was in his late twenties or early thirties. I could sense his feeling of defeat as I walked him out the door.

We own a freight company; we deal in other peopleís materials and possessions. People hire us to transport their things from one place to another and give them back to them. My contracts read such that I cannot hire personnel with felony convictions for theft, drugs or violence of any kind. I am telling our customers that we have investigated our employees and can assure them that they do not have a criminal history of drugs, theft or violence. The public wants this kind of assurance.

My problem is this. At what point does this young man get shed of his history and start to make a new life without his past following him around?

I realize the choices he made were of his own choosing and he should have thought about what he was doing before he did it. But, still when and where does someone go who needs some help?

Not to me, I canít hire him. People wouldnít let me and I would be uneasy having him on board and under constant scrutiny. But, I do feel sorry for him and wish him the best. I just donít know what to do to help him or how to advise someone in this sort of situation.

Maybe getting married and having a baby has caused him to change his ways and settle down. My question is how does he ever prove heís worthy of becoming a new person and able to inspire trust in those around him or for whom he works?

I wish I had asked him about his background more closely before I agreed to hire him, but it just slipped my mind and I didnít really think about it due to way he appeared and conducted himself in the interview.

You canít judge a book by its cover is certainly true, but not always the right thing that has to be done. Life is hard.
© Peary Perry
Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com
Letters From North America
- October 19 , 2005 column
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