Mindy Hardwick's Blog

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Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners

on March 2, 2016

Where the River Bends

One of the authors I heard speak at the Search for Meaning Conference in Seattle was Michael T. McRay who wrote, Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners.

I was very interested in this talk as my work with the teens in juvenile detention and writing my own memoir, Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention, has taken me into this question often.

McRay talked a lot about dismantling the enemy by hearing their stories. He talked about the danger of the single story in which we only hear a single story about another person or country. In order to hear all stories, McRay talked about the need to get in close proximity to the enemy–and yes, in the case of prisoners, this means we go into the prisons and sit while they tell their stories whether orally or through poetry, music, theater, literature or story. Next, he talked about having the curiosity to understand the why of what happened. McRay said that more than anything, victims need the truth. They need the why something happened and we get to this why by hearing the stories of those who committed the crime. And he talked about having humility and looking at how we might be wrong in our assumptions about a particular group of people.

One thing McRay mentioned, which I have also experienced in my work with teens in detention, is that the majority of prisoners have been abused as children. McRay said, “Trauma that is not transformed is transferred. Energy moves from one thing to another and when we receive the trauma and we don’t do the work to transform it, we will put it off to the next person or place.”

Finally, McRay said that it’s not giving voice to the voiceless, they do have a voice. It’s giving voice to the unheard.

If you’d like to learn more about a program McRay’s works on in Tennessee, Ten X 9 story program, a community program in which ten people have nine minutes to tell a story, go here.

There is also a great TED talk, “The Danger of A Single Story.”





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