One room at WorkFaith on North Post Oak Road has photos of the more than 1,100 men and women who have graduated from job readiness workshops over the past four years. Point to a photo and President Sandy Schultz can say, most of the time, where the graduates are working. The key element, she says, is attitude: "They shift from an attitude of entitlement—'What can you do for me?'—to one of gratitude: 'What can I do for you?'"
The felons are grateful to have a second chance, because statistically they are the least likely to be hired. One man came to WorkFaith and said, "I've got seven felonies, so no one will hire me." He's now a foreman at a roofing company. That's not an isolated example. WorkFaith has found that 78 percent of graduates get a job and 53 percent continue in that job for at least a year.
If felons can do it, anyone can. What I saw at WorkFaith—we'll have a full article about it next year—reminds me of what a formerly left-wing counselor at an anti-addiction program told me 15 years ago: He had believed that the poor are trapped behind brick walls, but after seven years he had learned that the walls are paper and they can punch right through. So what if a person has messed up? In the movie Black Hawk Down a sergeant tries to turn down an assignment by saying he's been shot. His colonel replies, "Everybody's shot. Get in and drive."
Yes, some are physically or mentally unable to punch, or drive. Others need temporary, emergency help—but 46 million Americans, and more each year? The problem with that enormity is not primarily the cost in dollars but in lives. It's wrong to tell millions of poor people that their situation is hopeless and that they should settle into a life of dependency. They and all of us are created in God's image and capable of doing great things.