COMMENTARY 916.3: Changing Lives Through Love

by Michael Josephson on January 27, 2015

in Caring, Compassion, Commentaries

Imagine being put in charge of a residential camp for delinquent teenage girls confined because they are considered dangerous. Many have serious mental health issues, impulse control problems, and an awful lot of anger.

One of the last terms you’d apply to any of these girls is lovable.

So when Pauline Starks and her colleague Gerry Davis (both with more than 25 years of experience at the Los Angeles Probation Department) spoke to the Josephson Institute’s Board of Governors about the importance of giving these girls love, it was pretty impressive. They refused to write these girls off as if they were social rubbish to be thrown or locked away. Instead, they saw young, damaged girls who needed and deserved to be loved.

They came to talk about how the CHARACTER COUNTS! program helped them change the lives of juveniles confined to Camps Scott and Scudder in Lancaster, California, and there wasn’t a person in the room who was not inspired.

It’s been said that kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Pauline and Gerry told stories and cited statistics to prove the effectiveness of liberally applied caring and respect. You might expect that nearly three decades of working with criminals would harden them, yet they spoke of the girls with such tenderness, and described little successes with such pride, that it was evident that their natural compassion and empathy shielded them from cynicism.

What a joy it was to spend an evening with these mortal angels who have found meaning and purpose in changing lives through love.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 1, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Reminds me of Fr. Greg Boyle author of ‘Tatoos of the Heart” and his lifeworks at ‘Homeboy Industries’ with ex felons,gang members, parolees in Los Angeles Barrios.


R. Johnson March 4, 2011 at 5:46 am

I am familiar with other similar cases that have astounded professionals who considered certain children hopeless cases. It is not surprising when we realize, “God is love.”


Anne Marie Whittaker March 4, 2011 at 6:45 am

I’ve been a educational student tour guide for nearly thirty years and have come across many students with behavioral or attitude issues.
Most of the teachers and parents have given up on the students and have termed them, ‘bad kids’ or high maintenance. They don’t understand that these students may be suffering from physiological or deep, underlying psychological issues such as ADHD, RAD (Reactive Detachment Disorder)), or bi-polarism.
Such students are doomed to become criminals because they cannot function properly and have no sense of boundaries or social skills.
I was brought up that all people are worthwhile and need to be approached with respect and love. That is what I have been commissioned to do.
Whenever I am faced with someone who is disruptive, I work harder to be more loving, understanding,and considerate. Occasionally, I suggest to the teacher traveling with the group that this student displays symptoms of the aforementioned conditions and should be examined.
As a result, I have had the reputation of having the best behaved groups in DC! Incredibly, I conduct the same sort of students as everyone else, but I approach each group with love rather than an agenda of simply herding them from one place to another.
We need to catch these students before they break laws or harm themselves, others. or property. We need to teach them to value themselves as well as present boundaries, cause and effect, ethics, respect for others, and instill self discipline, rather than blind obedience.
But love and respect is the true key.
Anne Marie
For more information about RAD: Broken Spirits, Lost Souls by Jane Ryan as well as her novel (soon to be a motion picture) The Boarder.


Mohammad Yacoob March 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Michael, Thank you for this inspiring commentary about the talk by Pauline & Gary. They told the stories. Would you please, relate in brief, those stories and share them with us. Thank you.
Mohammad Yacoob


Marty January 30, 2014 at 8:30 am

Kudos to Los Angeles County’s Probation team for their dedication to our children. I had the privilege of witnessing their handiwork too. They are truly professionals of the heart and often unsung heroes that help many children and families get back on track. God bless you all! And Michael thank you for the fresh eyes!


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