WHEN I FIRST MET DAN (not his real name), he was serving his sixth year of a life sentence in a maximum-security prison in Australia. He was what you'd call a really bad egg. No one liked him or wanted to mix with him—including his fellow prisoners. But as a teacher at the prison, I was assigned to tutor Dan as he worked to complete his highschool education.
Working with Dan was entirely different from the interactions I'd had with other prisoners. For the first time I felt really challenged to see beyond his labels. I didn't want to add myself to the list of people who only saw this prisoner as an irreversible package of faults. So I prayed pretty hard before we got to work. I wanted to see through his reputation and the crime he'd committed, to his true, spiritual nature, or the Christ.
Our first lesson was admittedly a little awkward. Dan was quiet, and I struggled with judging him. But I didn't feel afraid. As I continued to help him with his work, I made a concerted effort to see his goodness, which I knew must be a part of him as a child of God. He didn't talk much, but he always thanked me for my help.