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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Escape (01/02/06)

TITLE: Escape through Forgiveness: Thrive on Lessons Learned
By Cyndie Odya-Weis


A violent pulse of adrenaline jolted Shana awake. Her heart beating like a broken turn signal and her leg muscles performing a high-speed sprint, her bare feet pounded the pavement. She almost escaped her robber’s assault as he hit her with the crowbar… almost. As the steel bar swung toward her face, she startled and realized it was done- behind her. Two years ago, she escaped with a small bruise on her forehead and a scrape on her knee. The dreams were less frequent now but still she awoke in a run-for-her-life post-trauma state where her mind replayed the vivid images and feelings in living Technicolor virtual reality. Shana wondered if she’d ever escape the memories.

The reparative justice program helped. At first she met with counselors and prison guards to learn about rehabilitation. Inmates incarcerated for similar crimes addressed groups of victims. Shana learned that inmates and their families were as much the victims of crime as was she. Together they longed to escape the binds of incarceration. The final step was to confront her attacker.

How kind and gentle he looked in the sunny visiting room; nothing like the crowbar-wielding monster who appeared in the alley as she exited her craft store with the day’s deposits in a zippered pouch.

His sheer humanity evoked empathy in her- and anger. Shana forgave him months earlier when she learned his name; Paul Matthews, drug addict attempting robbery to support his $200 daily habit; Paul Matthews, star basketball player whose team mates introduced him to alcohol and marijuana at the suburban high school he attended on a voluntary desegregation program. Paul Matthews, recipient of a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious college where high scoring stats, good grades and a congenial team-player attitude masked the need for drug testing or monitoring. Paul Matthews, star of the handmade scrapbook lovingly assembled by his mom who was poor in a material sense but rich in solid Christian values and perseverance that she shared with Paul and four younger children. After the meeting with Paul, Shana met Mrs. Matthews and together they cried at the twisted double helix of a blessed life damaged by drugs. Together they prayed for Paul and the other crime victims; parents, children, family and friends.

Like a light spilling out when a lampshade is removed, Shana’s anger diffused when she met Paul. Previously focused on Paul alone, her anger spread - to the suburban kids who bought drugs to share with their gifted new teammate, Paul, a full two-three years younger than the rest; at their parents who gifted their teens the top three risk factors for drug use; discretionary funds, unscheduled time and pressure to achieve. Shana was angry at the urban culture that surrounded Paul’s youth- a culture that precipitated power relationships and the use of physical force, even for childhood misbehavior. Shana seethed at the lost opportunities of High School teachers whose classrooms were full of minds that could be molded and hearts longing for connection. Surely they could have integrated the needed drug education into Biology, Health, Social Studies.

Even more than she cursed the plaguing nightmares, she cursed the system and society that precipitated the crime. She loathed the apathy of unexamined lives and chemicals available to mask human feelings that interfere with perceived progress. Eighteen months earlier, she longed for an escape and coveted the day that she could put it all behind her. Now, she lingered in the lessons learned and jumped at chances to apply each one.

Shana realized that forgiveness is complex and multi-faceted and that she would never put the attack behind her, for there were too many good things to carry forward through life. Since the meetings with Paul and his mom, Shana had new passion for social justice, for youth education, for widespread monitoring of drug use and awareness of abuse. She looked forward to her upcoming training to teach others about reparative justice. She embraced her prison ministry activities.

Anger is the fuel that motivates Shana and grace the conduit that directs anger into action. Forgiveness is the balm that heals victim and perpetrators alike as it transforms them all into shared participants in worldly sin. There was no escape from what happened, but there was renewed hope and opportunity for all. There was no escape; only a journey called life.

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This article has been read 822 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 01/10/06
this story is a well- written indictment of a wounded country, and also a beautiful tale of forgiveness.

I wonder if you might re-work the first paragraph. At first I thought it was reality, then I thought it was a dream, then I thought it was a memory. I had to re-read it a few times before I got it.

You did a great job of exposing a lot of what's wrong with us, without getting on a soapbox. And your portrayal of your main character is very realistic: forgiving, yet still struggling. Well done.
becca rooks01/10/06
Your story reminded me of things I've always believed, but others said I was crazy for. In fact, it helped refocus me, keeping me from slipping onto the path of vengeance and anger that I had come dangerously close to. Thank you!
Maxx .01/14/06
This si well written. Thank yoou for sharing it. The only thing I'd say I struggled with is the white space... or lack of it. When I look at the piece it looks heavy and that impacts how I read / enjoy it. I'd recommend breaking up your standard block paragraphs with some on liners and dialogue. It gives the story a nicer feel.

Overall, very strong entry!
Beth Muehlhausen01/16/06
Great final paragraph...it pulled together the essence of your story nicely.

This hit home as I used to carry a deposit bag of cash when I was a business owner. I sometimes (late at night) wondered if I might be such a target.