Ages ago, when I was a kid attending summer camp, the YMCA's popular Camp Pendalouan had a slogan that I never forgot: I'm third. The counselors used to explain it this way to us: God first, the other fella second, I'm third. Good theology, really: Summary of the law; Golden Rule. And just plain, common sense...good advice.
The slogan came to mind this week when a prisoner resisted what I thought was rather gentle advice, and pretty much told me that with friends like me he didn't really need any enemies.
I'm sad about that, because no camp counselor ever repeated the slogan "I'm third" to him as a kid, apparently. I say that because, to hear him talk, he's first.
In all fairness, prisoners probably get a better rating than the people you and I meet on the street in our everyday lives. We meet many people who think that way. I can think of only three instances in the past 15 years, in dealing with prisoners, where I have had a real falling out. And it was over the same issues: an individual felt that he was number one, his problems and issues were number one, and my priorities in dealing with those matters didn't seem to match up.
One of the reasons this makes me sad is because Mr. F, Mr. D and Mr. H missed out on such an important part of life. When you make yourself number one, you have no thoughts at all about anyone else...and so you have no thoughts about caring for them, trying to help them, or praying for them.
Camp Pendalouan had it right: the camp slogan is as good today as it was then, both inside and outside of prison. It'll ensure a happy life. It's a good way to live. It's a Godly way to behave.
It's important for me to remember, daily, as I work among these beautiful people.
I am, indeed, third.