Hi Jeff and Lynn:
Recently, I had the opportunity to see Les Misérables at a local theater in our community. There are several plots in it, but it is a story of ex-convict, Jean Valjean, who is prisoner number 24601. Although he was not convicted of a white collar crime, he still committed a crime. The story is about redemption and grace. God gives us grace and the ability to redeem ourselves and in that, we should be forgiving to anyone who chooses to redeem themselves. Through my own story, I have learned to be less judgmental of others and realize that we all are sinners and make mistakes. God does not see sin as big or small.
As my family’s story unraveled in 2008, I felt so much shame and walked in silence. I closed the curtains as if to forget the world existed. I cried in the darkness so no one would hear. I kept my head down when I went outside, so hopefully no one would recognize me.
What we seem to forget is that these who are serving their time, just like Evan, for a white-collar crime, are not just a prisoner number. The number overshadows that of a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, mentor, and so much more that their lives have been all about. We seem to forget that because a person falls short of grace for a moment, does not mean they deserve a life sentence. Who are we to say they should not be able to redeem themselves? Should they too be able to live a life of redemption and peace when they are released; especially if they have asked for God’s forgiveness.
Also, I wanted to share a recent disturbing event that my daughter recently encountered. The friend that I went to see in the Les Misérables’ production in the local community theatre also encouraged my daughter to try out for an upcoming production. Since she has been through so much emotion with her father going to prison, I thought this would be a great avenue to get involved in something that she could put a lot of energy into. She is also is not afraid to get up in front of an audience, which is a quality she gets from her father. I found out that the producer and director who is overseeing the production is from New York. My daughter did great at auditions from what I am told. We expected a call back for sure until today. I am still hopeful that the right decision will be made on my daughter’s behalf and not let the unfortunate circumstances affect her for that which she has no control over. There are still those who want to keep what happened to our family alive and our family shame was made public once again to the director and to that of the local community theater. After hearing the news, I felt the need to reach out to the director. In my email, I confirmed the events. I also informed the director about your ministry and forwarded the website address. My hope was to reach out to this director so that she would know what families and children go through and share this wonderful and amazing ministry with her. I hope that she takes the time to look at it. I also wanted her to know that even though I knew she had to do what was best for the production, that my daughter and I would continue our journey with are heads held high.
These days, I choose to live a life without shame. I am not going to be afraid to be who I am, and that is Lori Dooley. There will always be those who make the journey less inviting along the way and choose to be judgmental. There is a quote right now on the community theatre website for the show Les Misérables and it says: “To love another person, is to see the face of God.” I choose to see the face of God in everything I do regardless of my family’s unfortunate circumstances; even if one chooses to judge us, I choose to love!
I wanted you both to know that I am more excited now about sharing my story than ever before. I want to help others in their journey and be an advocate for other families through the process.
“I absolutely feel that my purpose and that of my 10 year daughter to go through this tremendous pain is for a reason, although unsure at this time how that purpose will play out, I deeply know it’s God purpose for us. I am trusting in His plan. A greater plan than I could imagine and anxious to help and guide in that next journey. I would rather be penniless and my life worth helping others through this journey, than a life filled with money and selfishness of no empathy or understanding of what is like for others to suffer.”
Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
at Christ Church Greenwich 254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Conecticut 06830
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1232, Weston, Connecticut 06883
Central Ministry & Office: Weston, Connecticut
Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
Lynn Springer, Advocate, Innocent Spouses & Children
George Bresnan, Advocate
Comments from other social media:
> Way to go, Jeff, keep up the good, healing work!
> Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité! – Anonymous
Although my journey began in 08 I am only 6 weeks into being a wife without her husband. Both my husband and I are very private people. I too would hide from site. my husband was accused, tried & convicted in the press. When this happened it almost destroyed us as a family. I believe we will be stronger together for going through this. Our daughter was a freshman in high school when this began. She dealt with a lot. Happily I can say my husband and myself couldn't be more proud of the strong woman she has become. Now whenever her father calls she screams like a little girl, "Daddy's calling". She knows what happened and she knows that what was written in the press is made up of half truths. She recently started a relationship in college. I knew this was different by the way she would talk. Once this happened the boy/man gradually pulled away. She is hurt but realizes that she is better off knowing this is who he is now. She actually said that she won't find anyone at school because they will all be equally judgmental of Dad. She is staying strong and is still Daddy's little girl. I hope your daughter keeps her head high too. She will get through this. Learning life lessons as she goes. Our son is at an age where he needs his Dad and he is struggling quite a bit. This is new to us so we take each day as it come.
Everyone deserves to forgiven. I was so angry for so many years I too forgot how to forgive. Everyone makes mistakes but for some reason not everyone remembers that. I believe that the human side of these crimes get lost. There are real families suffering in silence, hiding from life. I am still struggling to keep my head above ground.
It is comforting to know that someone else is gong through the same experiences that I am. I am sorry to know how many of us there are. I would like to evolve to where you are now. Thank you for sharing your story.
I hope to reach out to you through Jeff soon. I am still not ready to talk. Somedays I don't know what is up. Baby steps.
I found comfort and strength in your letter, as my family and I can empathize with part of your experience. It is a profoundly strong life and mission statement to commit to living without shame. I have found myself that the first step towards doing so is to forgive myself, for my lapses of strength and judgment. I hope to be able to live that mission statement of yours.
I admire how you've been strong for your daughter, and I believe also, for your husband. As a man, I've often found my wife to have been much stronger than me through our own ordeal… our love has grown in ways I could've never imagined.
I do believe that God sees us as all flawed and yet loves us all the same. It is in some way a blessing to be the subject of this kind of trauma, it strips away the dross and reveals our humanity, vulnerability, strength and compassion.
We are a community, and in a sense a blessed one, where our ordeals and traumas have revealed opportunities to be sublimely grateful for that which we, or at least I, have long taken for granted.
Thank you for sharing.
Last year I spoke in front of an audience of business people. I asked who in the audience has had either in their family or among their friends someone who has a drinking problem or been incarcerated. Almost every hand went up. After the lecture was over a women approached me. She revealed that she was a past officer of the group & no one ever knew that she had a criminal record when she was younger. I found out that she had served the organization well as it's leader & was very much admired & respected. How many talented people are we as a society losing because of this attitude of non-redemption? Allow a reentry survivor & their family to lead a productive life again. Remember the person is not the crime but a person who committed a crime.
Barry S. Diamond