you better have empathy in a small world…

the first time i was prepared, in fact i initiated the conversation, but this time i was caught unawares — so it’s a damn good thing that i’m honest about our work, why i’m involved in it, and understand clearly that no matter how flat the pancake is, it still has two sides…

i was engaging 30-some odd members of the mid-cumberland council of healthcare social workers in a conversation yesterday about the intersection of mental illness and the death penalty and it was a good group of people to speak with even if they were, overall, a little more skeptical than i anticipated…

and i opened with some facts surrounding greg thompson’s mental illness as if they were the beliefs of a hypothetical client they were interviewing … i then exposed the factual nature of this hypothetical client and countered it with the insane proposition of the tn attorney general, who, knowing that greg is diagnosed with schizophrenia, has relentlessly pursued his execution over the past 2+ years…

i then gave some background on the actual murder and case and then came the punchline from the back of the room – “i grew up with brenda lane”…

brenda lane was the murder victim in this case … by all accounts a wonderful, giving, bright, human being who was deeply loving and deeply loved …

the woman who knew brenda was straight forward, easy-speaking, and thoughtful – it wasn’t a tension filled moment, just a surprise … but it could have been different had i not already spoken of the victim and her family with gentility, compassion, and concern … and in fact it opened up the conversation and i was pleased when my hour with them concluded …

i had spoken to the methodist communications staff back in the fall of 05′ for community shares and tcask … this was where brenda blanton lane was working, a recent hire, when her life was so tragically cut short by a deeply disturbed and severely mentally ill greg thompson … that was a powerful moment and again it was aided by my honest compassion and true concern for murder victim’s and the survivors of their homicide…

so who would have guessed that a childhood friend of brenda lane’s would have been in the group i was addressing … it just goes to show that if you do this work as an organizer your heart better be in a spiritually or humanistically centered place — because if it’s not you’ll be exposed by unexpected meetings in a small world…

peace out – <3

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