These past few weeks, I cant help but feel like the universe has been sending me a message or seven, but all based on the same theme, acceptance.
Recently I was completely humbled to be in the company of an extraordinary person, and spend time getting to understand what he does, and why and how it all works, both for him and the people that he works with, it was inspiring stuff.
I came across Darren through another truly incredible person, Julie Bradley, the head teacher at the school where I am a Governor. It appears that when it comes to amazing people… birds of a feather flock together.
I sat and listened to Darren’s own incredible story which makes what he does now even more awesome, by his own admission Darren is a former drug dealer, drug taker, steroid abuser, woman beater, violent habitual criminal, abandoned by his family, homeless, he received a leaflet through his door for a church which he screwed up, tossed in the bin and it bounced off the side, landing on the floor.
After another violent crime and a night in the cells, he went to that church and so began the change of his life, and that change started with something that Darren himself identified as being life changing, that was the acceptance of the people within the church, they took him in at his very worst, didn’t judge him, just welcomed him in and recognised something intrinsically good, something which, for Darren, had never happened before.
Darren now works with offenders to change their path and mindset, he mentors and work holistically with each person to offer structure to what can be chaotic lives, personal guidance, work opportunities and offers, amongst other things that same quality of acceptance, to repeat offenders, and its a magic combination.
His success rate is far far higher that the national probation service average and his personal attention and support gives opportunity to people who would otherwise be left behind by society and fall quickly back into offending.
Applying my growing knowledge of attachment theory and my understanding of counselling, I found this completely inspirational.
Almost the core model of everything we do in counselling and the basis of a therapeutic counselling relationship is centred on three of Carl Rogers conditions,
- Empathy – the ability to enter into someone else’s realm of experience,
- Congruence – being genuine and your true self
- Unconditional positive regard – which is acceptance by any other name
And the best bit of it is that Darren is doing all this, without knowing this magic recipe for a therapeutic relationship – he is just doing it and its having massive results.
He demonstrates empathy by having walked in their shoes, been on their path, experienced their pain, and they can see what he has achieved and become, he is entirely congruent, just himself, not in any way superior or ‘look at me’ he is truly himself, and he embodies unconditional positive regard by giving back what was first offered to him, acceptance of a person, regardless of fault, just as a human being who wants to do things differently.
He is a walking embodiment of what the basis of a therapeutic relationship is, and let me tell you its a complete breath of fresh air to be around. Its so refreshing to be with someone so selfless and committed to helping others on their path. Darren’s commitment to his faith is ceaseless, empowering and enduring, and kind of awesome – and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t have a ‘prescribed’ faith as such, I’m just an interested observer of faith of all kinds and its effects.
In my training at The Place 2 Be has shown me that for many children, their time in the Place2Be room might well be their first experience of positive regard (acceptance) and I just see that as such a gift, to be able to offer a child who might have been labelled and all but written off the opportunity for a clean unconditional slate, I think its a life changing thing and I’m thrilled to be able to do that in my work with them.
I’m not saying its easy – we all judge based on our upbringing and our personal/family/society values, but imagine how empowering it might be to have always been negatively evaluated and for just one relationship – have that removed and for potential and opportunity to flood in
I urge you to check out Be Strong and their work and find out more about Darren, and I challenge you not to want to do better and be better when you read his story, its certainly had that effect on me, and I’m also interested in finding other exceptional people who give so much for others so who can you recommend me to seek out?