Sunday, November 18, 2012

Primitive Spark

"Is there not in every human soul; was there not in the particular soul of Jean Valjean, a primitive spark, a divine element, incorruptible in this world, immortal on the next, which can be developed by good, kindled, lit up, and made resplendently radiant, and which evil can never entirely extinguish?" - Victor Hugo (Les Miserables)

The social worker would respond to this question: Yes, yes there is such a "primitive spark" in every person. And that is why we do the work we do. In fact, that is even *how* we do the work that we do. It is what we call a "strengths-based perspective." It is the fundamental belief that there is at least a little bit of "good" - or a "strength" - in any situation.

Kellye and I have been talking at length about being thankful. Many of our friends post daily in the month of November things for which they are thankful. And Kellye is reading a book that aims to unveil the thousand opportunities for grace that can be discovered every day just by being thankful. So we have started a list of things for which we give thanks, and it forces us to look for the good in any and every situation.

Because if you can give thanks, if you can find a strength, if you can see the "spark," then you have a starting point. You have a focus, a place to begin, a first block on which to build a sense of hope and faith for your life.

This is really the heart of the work that I do every day with my clients. Although the rest of their world, and everything around them, sends the message of hopelessness, we talk and search for a spark of life. And then we develop it, kindle it, until it is fully lit and the individual is radiant in their world, living as they were always meant to. That is an incredible challenge, but also a great joy.

In the story of Jean Valjean, it is society that has snuffed out that spark in his life. He was condemned to 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. The rules of society broke him and drove him to a point of hopelessness.

There are times when I wonder about the role of my work in society. Is the money well spent? Does everyone really deserve a second (and third and fourth) chance when they have made mistakes? Is there truly a "primitive spark" that can ignite positive change in a person?

Maybe. And maybe not. But we won't know unless we look for the strengths, unless we give each person the opportunity to surprise us, and unless we are thankful for the opportunity every moment of the day.

1 comment:

Kacey Bolin said...

This is so great! My team and I are facing just this situation of hopelessness and a need to find the joy, the thing to be thankful for and the strength as we face the Red Light District in Phuket. It is so encouraging read this and be reminded that we get the chance to make a spark or even find one. And be a part of building a roaring flame! So glad I stumbled across this! God is so good!