I don’t remember the author, but I do remember Sister Eugenia, my high school teacher, saying it. The words must have made an impression because, 50+ years later, I remember this:
“Tire not of new beginnings. Build your life never upon regret, always upon resolve…Don’t shed tears on the blotted page of the past, but turn the page, and smile. Smile to see the clean, white page before you…Begin again.”
The words took on a new meaning when I visited the Allegheny County Jail recently, to learn about the services that Jean Coyne and her folks provide to inmates. I had visited the jail once, before it opened. But this time, it was different because there were inmates. I thought that perhaps incarceration might be a page-turning moment for them.
Jean had sent us directions for entering the jail as visitors — no gum, no hoodies, no red clothing, no food or beverages — so I was prepared, and a bit apprehensive. We met at the visitors’ entrance and after a couple of rounds of making sure we didn’t have any contraband, we headed down to the re-entry center to hear several men reflect on their experience in the jail.
Just thinking that we were locked in the gray/white cinder block walls of the building gave me a chill. We crammed into an elevator and headed for our meeting with five men who are near the re-entry point — the new beginning of their lives.
They had taken classes Pittsburgh Mercy offers through the Jail Collaborative, and they spoke highly of the Thinking For A Change® course, and SAGE, (Self-Awareness Graduate Education) which builds on self-awareness skills and prepares inmates for re-entry into society. These fellows spoke of determination to change their lives and planning for success in order to avoid returning to the jail—again.
My heart went out to them. Some new beginnings are more difficult than others, I thought, and I pray that these men won’t tire of starting over — again.