After Eight Years . . . Eight Days of Gratitude

After 8 years serving the #RMOforReturningCitizens, I have 8 DAYS left in the office before stepping down from my role as RMO Director. (ICYMI – see the link below for details of my decision and what’s next for me . . . )

So, for each of those remaining 8 days, I want to do one of the things our returning citizens have taught me: to express gratitude every day for some of the key people who have been my mentors, teachers, encouragers and who have walked so much of this journey with me. Here’s the first installment.

I’ll start with the people who launched me into this journey in the first place:

1) Jon Singer, former Director of what was then LAVORP – Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program, now Advoz: Mediation & Restorative Practices. It was a random phone call from Jon in April, 2007, asking me to teach a conflict resolution course to a group of court-referred teens that started this journey. I said “yes” to Jon’s request, but quickly realized I was in over my head with those kids – which led me to stand up in church (Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren) one Sunday morning and ask for prayers for the kids and for myself.

2) My dear friend and mentor, Jean Moyer , responded to my plea for prayers by offering to introduce me to a woman she’d met years earlier who taught conflict resolution to prison inmates, then Jean helped me write a book about that woman’s life and work. And, of course, that woman was . . .

3) Grace Marie Hamilton ! She has taught me so much, and of course, much of what I’ve learned from her is contained in the stories in Grace Goes to Prison . Most of all, I’m grateful for these particular lessons from Grace Marie:

a. Whatever the question, LOVE is the answer.

b. The people who work within the criminal justice system are just as much in need of love, humanity, hope, compassion and respect as those caught within the system.

I’m also grateful for Grace Marie’s vision that prison should be used ONLY as an option of last resort – only for the people we don’t yet know how to help.

4) Wendy McFadden, James E. Deaton and Jeff Lennard at Brethren Press who took a chance on publishing Grace Goes to Prison, and who guided me and helped to get Grace Marie’s stories out into the world in such a beautiful way.

5) Pastor Greg Davidson Laszakovits at ECOB who invited me to speak to our congregation about what I was learning from Grace Marie about restorative justice, our prison system, forgiveness, and hope. Initially, I politely declined his invitation, telling him “I don’t do public speaking.” But Pastor Greg didn’t take “no” for an answer. Good thing, since that sermon for the ECOB congregation on May 17, 2009 became the first of more than 150 public speaking gigs I’ve now done in 19 states across the US on these and related subjects.

So, thank you, Jon.
Thank you, Jean.
Thank you, Wendy, James and Jeff.
Thank you, Pastor Greg.
And THANK YOU, Grace Marie!

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: restorative justice rmo

Next: After Eight Years . . . Eight Days of Gratitude - Part 2

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