You wouldn't know that he is a very gentle father. You wouldn't know that he is very loving and grateful to his parents. You wouldn't assume that he has parents who have loved him fiercely from the time he was eight years old and did everything they could to help him. You wouldn't know that the past month he has been a very good boyfriend, had found housing for himself, was working several days a week, and that his life looked like it was going to turn around.
You might assume, though the details of the crime spoke otherwise, that he had planned the event... that it was premeditated, and because he was caught first, he was the initiator. You might assume that he consciously knew what he was doing the entire time. And you would more than likely say to yourself in your mind, "I hope they throw the book at him."
You probably wouldn't guess that he was impulsive ...or considered that he might have been drunk or high. You wouldn't realize the he most likely was following someone else who was the mastermind behind the plan. You wouldn't ask if he possibly could have a brain that wasn't quite working right due to trauma as a young child.
As you read this you are probably thinking that I am defending him or trying to convince you that he shouldn't have to face legal consequences But that isn't my point. My point is that thought there are stories like this in the news every day, this time, he's not just anyone -- he's my son.
This song has been going through my mind ever since the crime happened, and here's why.
When we look from the outside in at newspaper articles, at news programs on TV, at jail rosters we have feelings that range from disgust to anger at these "losers" who are ruining our society. We can wish for serious legal consequences, not thinking about how they got where they are or how well they might have been doing.
But more than ever before I'm realizing that behind each of those faces on the jail roster website there is more than likely a mother, or other person, who loves them -- or at one point did before it got too difficult to bear. There may be years of neglect and abuse as children where society failed to protect them. They might be people who are homeless and mentally ill who can't get services because we as a society (and dare I say as a church) are failing them.
I know this post may not make everyone comfortable. But raising my kids has made me so much less judgmental of others and so much more compassionate ... because in every homeless young adult, I see one of my sons. In every inmate's eyes, I see the pain of one of my kids. In each pregnant teenager, I see my daughter. And I recognize that the people in those positions potentially have a host of people who have desperately and helplessly watched someone they love fall apart.
If you met my son, you would really like him. You would find him engaging, kind, and loving. You would see that he is a good conversationalist and likes people. You might not be able to understand why he did what he did, I don't know the answer to that either, but I pretty sure you'd think he was a nice guy had you known him before it happened. And you might be able to say, even though he is where he is, "he's not just anyone... he's my friend."