What makes a person? Apart from the biological makeup, there is what some could call the soul, or the spirit. I often find myself thinking and wondering amongst other (much more mundane) things, that eternal question: How did we come to be the people we are now?

    There are exceptions to the rule as in any case, and none more so than when you throw humans in the mix. As any half baked psychological theory will tell you, the circumstances in which a person grew up largely influence what they become, and what kind of person they are. If you follow the reasoning of crime dramas (my personal favorite way to learn a bit), well, you get that the criminals are often mostly affected by their childhood, and that in effect determines the rest of their lives.

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    I can’t begin to tell you how often I have watched my weekly shows and at the end, have positively drowned myself in tears. I feel such empathy for the bad guy (which probably says a lot about my weird mentality) – but that in itself is why one shouldn’t depend on a sensational crime series to learn! (Insert “duh” here)

    So, of course, I must relay to you a bit about someone I spent a remarkable amount of time with on fabulous Sunday. Tossing back beers and shooting the sh** on a beautiful beach is what it’s all about in San Pedro. When you get a chance to talk to someone many would consider a “nuisance” or a “character” – and leave with your mind positively blown away, well, that’s a damn fine Sunday! I won’t say his name, but it’s so easy to fill in the blanks these days (must be slow season:>).

    This man is about 31 years old, has 5 sons, and considers himself an artist. And to many, he is. His story is that he lost his guardians at the age of 13, and at such a pivotal age, losing those you love can affect you profoundly. He certainly didn’t mince words about what he did, and where he ended up, but he did say something that has always been my belief. Society does create criminals.

    Belize is still backwards in a lot of things, and their criminal system is one such area. Imagine a 13 year old being lumped in a school for boys – one which houses the gamut of thieves and killers, right alongside the small-time bad boys who only got sent there because of circumstances beyond control. In this man’s case, he got sent because the community in general didn’t want to take him on. So instead, he got lumped into an area where he could learn the skills of a burglar, the moves of a killer, and the attitude of the streets.

    I am pretty sure that the behavior displayed in that home is being mirrored on the streets, and many feel we’re better off lumping them into a home and forgetting about them. But what breed of criminals can we expect once they can no longer legally be held at youth hostels? Sure they have a target on their backs, but with new crops of bad boys being sent to these hostels, and the resources being stretched as they are, well, society ends up taking back these new releases, many of whom come back worse than when they went in.

    That is the case that our artist friend found himself experiencing. After a few years of petty crime, running from the law, getting caught, released and harassed – his first son was born. That was the moment that changed his life – and while to many he may come across as abrasive, and a hustler, and a bit much of a character, this is also a man who hasn’t necessarily been given a chance. To listen to him talk about how he has such hopes for his children, all while knowing that society doesn’t necessarily offer the best options – well, that just says a lot about his character. It doesn’t happen often. He could have carried on with a criminal lifestyle, but he considers his time done, debt paid, and now he is all about raising his children, and hustling and working all manner of jobs to put food on the table.

    At the end of it all, it had to have taken great spirit to keep moving forward. He grasps at any opportunity to learn, stay informed, and he always believes in giving his opinion, and he is not afraid. He believes in talking to young children, especially those he’s seen with the potential to become something great. He fears, just as we all do, that we are losing our youth to crime – and he tries in his own way, to do something about it. While he believes that the “system” has done him wrong, he still has that fervent hope that things will be better with his children. He does everything he can to instill the goodness of an education, and of respect to each of his boys, hoping that they will be better off than he was at their age.

    Now, my favorite crime shows don’t show me someone like that often enough: someone who is rough around the edges, but only needs a bit of attention, and some polish. Mostly it is about one gone bad, real bad. But I am thankful to know that we have those diamonds in the rough just waiting for a bit of polishing and encouragement. We give everyone a chance – politicians, priests, neglectful parents – why not someone who the system never gave a chance to? No need to be naive, always have your guard up – but keep in mind that we could have ended up in a similar or worse situation – and we’ve got the chances many would (literally) kill for. It’s time to open our eyes and accept. We will never know what makes up a person, but every day is a learning experience – and slowly, if we keep our eyes and ears open, we can find out a bit more.           

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