Yesterday, my blah mood would not let me do anything constructive like wash clothes, sweep the floor, or, well, move out of the chair in front of the computer. So I was trapped, surfing the Internet aimlessly. After reading every bookmarked blog, searching for a decent online crossword, resisting the urge to shop (because shopping while bored always ends badly, or at least expensively), and even creating a new account on Kingdom of Loathing (I'm a Disco Bandit this time!), I was still unable to tear myself away.
Something led me to bring up our county website listing registered sex offenders. I've done this before, simply to be aware. I am not a vigilante; I do not aspire to draw undue attention to anyone who is technically doing the right thing. I appreciate knowing their whereabouts because it reminds me to pay attention to my instincts and to help build my kids' confidence in their own - if we aren't sure we can trust those around us, we should be listening to the whispers of our subconscience. It assures us when someone is being truly kindhearted, and it warns us when someone is being duplicitous. And as relieved as I am to know of the convicted offenders nearby, I grimly understand there still may be dozens (hundreds?) of unrecognized individuals in our neighborhoods who harbor dark intentions.
Looking through the pictures, I found myself trying to memorize their names and faces. This was disconcerting, because I didn't know what I planned to do with such information. What would I do if I spotted one of these guys at Wild Oats? At church? At a school function? What is my responsibility as a citizen? Then I started really looking at the faces on my screen, the guarded eyes looking out, and trying to understand what went wrong these people. Some of them were merely involved in relationships with underage partners - I'm not trying to discount the offense, but I think there is a significant difference between that behavior and actively preying upon others. Then there are those who did indeed commit horrific acts, but many years ago - some when they were teenagers. I cannot possibly know if rehabilitation is attainable for an individual who not only envisioned monstrous acts but actually carried them out. I want to believe it is; I pray it is. Because when I looked at those faces, I imagined the terror of their victims and the damage inflicted and I wondered how many of those victims are trying to erase that damage by passing it on to someone else. It is a brutal cycle that requires more than an emphasis on personal responsibility and smart choices; we, the proverbial village, must be prepared to help with vigilance and prayers for the tempted, a nod and smile to the lost.
Which brings me back to scanning the registry, memorizing faces. If I can't believe something can change, eventually, that something good can result, I am stuck. Again.