Author Archive: directorifi

Minneapolis Mom Forgives Her Son’s Murderer

CBS News/Blueprint for Life website – Mary Johnson, a 59-year-old teacher’s aide was justifiably distraught when her only son, 20-year-old Laramiun Byrd, was shot to death at a party in 1993. The killer was 16-year-old O’Shay Israel.

“I wanted Justice,” Johnson said. “He was an animal. He deserved to be caged.”

And he was. Israel was sentenced to 25 1/2 years in prison. He served 17 years before being released earlier this year. In a strange twist of fate that demonstrates the power of forgiveness, Israel now lives next door to Johnson in a North Minneapolis apartment building–an arrangement set up by Johnson’s appeal to her landlord.

“Unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out,” says Johnson. “Me forgiving him does not diminish what he has done. Yes, he murdered my son. But the forgiveness is for me. It’s for me.”

Johnson met with Israel several times before he was released from Minnesota’s Stillwater State Prison and eventually forgave him. Now??Israel and Johnson together sing the praises of forgiveness at prisons, churches and before large audiences throughout the Midwest.

Watch the CBS News video: The Power of Forgiveness

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Mother Forgives Drunken Driver Who Killed Her Son

timesfreepress.com, Chattanooga, TN – Even before her 25-year-old son died from horrendous auto crash injuries, Tiki Finlayson had already decided to forgive the wrong-way drunken driver who killed him.

That was what she felt like God needed her to do, to make her son’s death mean something. She said forgiving the woman driver was almost an impulse.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” she said. “Holding anything against her doesn’t change the fact that Kevin isn’t here. I chose to take control.”

Finlayson met Latisa Stephens, the driver who killed Kevin, three days before the woman’s court sentencing. She made Stephens an offer: she would agree to push for a lower sentence if Stephens promised to dedicate part of her life to 1N3, the organization created in Kevin’s honor.

She would have to stand before crowds with Finlayson and say over and over again what she did and why she did it. Finlayson said she wanted to mentor her, to help her get her life in order. Stephens agreed. She promised to help the organization weekly.

“I forgive you,” Finlayson said. “But I want you to understand what you’ve done.” The two held each other for a long time.

Tiki Finlayson; her son, Derek Yates; and her husband, Tom Finlayson, stand in front the crushed van in which Tiki’s other son, Kevin Yates, died after being hit by a drunken driver. Tiki Finlayson uses the van in the program she founded, 1IN3, to raise awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving.

Stephens was sentenced to eight years in prison for vehicular homicide by intoxication and 6 years supervised probation.

Since then, Finlayson says she thinks of all the good that has come from losing Kevin. A man in Memphis got Kevin’s heart. His liver went to save a 72-year-old man. Both his kidneys were used, too.

And 1N3 has provided grief counseling, addiction counseling, and awareness at schools. It is named 1N3 for a sobering statistic: One in three people are affected by drunk driving. The group has taken off and now reaches people across the nation and around the globe.

Read the full story: “The loss of a son sends a family on a journey into the depths of their own hearts.”

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Shunning the Impulse to Seek Revenge

Here is a brief excerpt from an article “Mother forgives drunk driver after crash killed her son” that appeared in the July 28, 2013, edition of timesfreepress.com, the online version of the Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press. Written by Joan Garrett McClane.

Forgiveness may be trumpeted in church and on counselors’ couches but it’s not a cultural virtue. We live in a world of open grudges. We live in an angry world made more so by screaming television housewives and George Zimmerman verdicts.

Biologically, according to Fred Luskin, author of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, we are negatively biased. The human brain naturally focuses on the darkness. And when we are hurt emotionally or physically, our bodies, our brains go on guard. Our nervous system reacts. Trauma teaches lessons that are hard to forget.

Robert Enright, a forgiveness researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said few people are taught how to forgive because we are ambiguous about the value of forgiveness.

We laud figures who can overcome anger. We quote Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

We laud characters who take vengeance, too. James Bond. Harry Potter. Batman.

So if someone is going to make forgiveness a practice they have to prepare for tragedy, expect to be wronged, Enright said.

Look at the Amish. When a gunman executed five schoolchildren in Nickel Mines, Pa., in 2006 the crime scene hadn’t even been cleaned up before Amish families were sending notes of forgiveness to the killer’s family. They brought the widow food and flowers. Half of those at the killer’s burial were Amish.

These tight-knit communities emphasize a predisposition toward forgiveness and shun the impulse to seek revenge, instead believing justice to be a divine matter.

At its core, regardless of spiritual belief, people come to forgive because they come to recognize every person’s tendency to err, Enright said.

“The biggest reason that people resist [forgiveness] is the profound confusion that is in the human heart,” he said. “When people are fuming, they are zeroed in on justice. Mercy is abhorrent.”

Read the full story: “Mother forgives drunk driver after crash killed her son.”

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A Sign of True Forgiveness

The Argus Observer, Ontario, OR – Christopher Ragus, the 40-year-old owner of Making Tracks Cyclery in Nyssa, OR, boarded up a window of his store that was shattered by a brick during a break-in the night before. On the plywood boards he painted the words “I forgive you!”

Forgive Sign-Broken Window

Photo courtesy of Larry Meyer, Argus Observer

“I wanted to put a statement out there that this wasn’t going to get to me,” Ragus said of the robbery that resulted in four BMX-style bicycles being stolen.

“Still want justice. But this is what I need to do. Not going to let this speed bump keep us from winning the race,” Ragus said. He added that forgiveness and understanding are a part of his overall values.

“I’m a Christian and I really wanted to make a bold statement to whoever did this that whatever it is they’re going through, to do something like this, can only mean they’re going through more in life than I am,” Ragus said.

Read the full story: “A Sign of Forgiveness After Theft”

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Mother Forgives Man Who Shot Her Twin Sons

WOWT Channel 6, Omaha, NE – An Omaha woman says she forgives the man who killed her 28-year-old son Kevin McIntyre and wounded his twin Branden at a party in early August.

“I forgive the young man that did it, I really do,” said Lisa McIntyre speaking to a large crowd at a recent vigil. “I would just like to ask for no retaliation.”

McIntyre said she isn’t angry, only showing forgiveness. “You said that you have forgiven him, why do you feel that in your heart, that forgiveness? I don’t be tangled up inside, I don’t take this anger and do something else. I have another twin out there, not just that I can set an example.”

Her words inspired Balloonsothers in the crowd. “Let’s quit being the victims and start being the victors,” said one woman. “We are human beings, red, yellow, green, black or white. We are all brothers and sisters, let’s love each other, quit fighting, it ain’t worth it, it ain’t worth it.”

As balloons were released into the air, McIntyre added, “I’m not angry, I am not upset, I just want it to stop. That is it, that is all I can say.”

The man who shot her sons has turned himself in to authorities.

Read the full story: “Mother Of Twins Shot Sunday Forgives Gunman

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