I was about a mile away from the jail this morning in my car when I saw some McDonalds litter lying in the road. As the prison is out in the countryside, it was an unusual and unattractive sight.
I didn't jump out the car and take a photo - this one's from Google Images.
I found myself feeling quite outraged and asking myself why someone would turf their rubbish out of the window of a car in such a beautiful area rather than keep it till they found a bin. I am not immune to various other forms of temptation but, particularly since I love the countryside, I just don't get it with littering - I don't get how people don't care.
As a prison chaplain, I'm constantly with people (staff too, not just prisoners). I'm trying constantly to empathise with people and understand them. Doing that with prisoners includes the huge challenge of trying to grasp what's got them to this point, including, amongst lots else, their "index offence".
As I reflect on the litter I saw this morning, and my reaction to it, I find it odd to realise that I have sometimes/often listened to a prisoner whose offence is appalling - much much worse than dropping litter in the grand scheme of things - and found myself thinking that I could understand just how it came to happen (while not condoning it). Other times I just know that I'm not connecting with the guy. And I have to ask myself whether that's because we are just very different types of people. (It's not always, because, of course, the whole thing is muddied by the fact that the prisoner may not be telling you the true story. I have realised that sometimes they are not ready even to tell themselves the true story never mind me, so I don't take it personally.)
The knack of chaplaincy (fortunately) isn't that we have to be able to relate 100% with everyone. Just as well. We can't. We need to be there for everyone, though, and to be clearly seen by them to be listening carefully and understanding as best we can.
Human beings are all wired up differently. When Him Indoors and I were student ministers we had to do the Myers Briggs personality test. As it happens we were newlyweds and it turned out to be hugely helpful to our marriage. It helped us such a lot in those early days to see in black and white that we are wired differently and react to things in different ways. According to Myers Briggs, I'm ENFP (apologies if that means nothing to you). My opposite number would be ISTJ. Him indoors is three quarters opposite to me. But here we are in 2008 still happily married after fifteen years, because we know that it's not JUST that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. On top of that our personalities are wired differently.
I don't think litter dropping or not litter dropping has anything to do with your Myers Briggs personality type. Nor has it anything to do with whether you're from Mars or whether you're from Venus. If I knew precisely what caused criminal behaviour I'd be a lot richer and more famous than I am. My point is just that I don't understand litter dropping,and also that no matter how hard I try as a chaplain, I'm never going to be truly able to understand everyone. I'll give it my best shot though, and in the process I get to hear some interesting stories, some of them even true.