SAM | Australia
“I am a Person Who has Worth”
The Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace®: Justice and Peace helps victims heal from the harm caused by crime, and helps offenders claim responsibility for their acts, and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Sam was one of the original group of prisoners in Australia to participate in the pilot Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace®: Justice and Peace in 2008. Three years later, he shared his story:
“When another prisoner suggested I think about being part of the Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace®: Justice and Peace, I reluctantly came aboard with a bucket load of trepidation.
“I was nervous the first morning, shaking hands with a group of people who were smiling and looking like they were actually pleased to see me.
“I’d always thought that victims of crime should carry a blind hatred—as I did to those who wounded, betrayed, and stole from me. That’s a half century of anger, resentment and loathing built up layer, by layer.
“While I was no longer obsessed with feelings of hatred, I feared that my victims hold, and will continue to hold, similar contempt for me. That is another burden I had laden them with through my selfishness, arrogance, and lovelessness—and they do not deserve to have thoughts of hatred burning inside of them for decades.
“I long for the day when they will encounter the Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace®: Justice and Peace so that they may begin the immensely difficult task of being healed through love, compassion, and forgiveness, and so they may live useful, happy, and productive lives.
“At the conclusion of one of our sessions, I received a shock—one of the victims hugged me! It was the most amazing spontaneous action and I deeply felt her pain, and even more, I felt her deep compassion and understanding of my profound sorrow. I felt loved.
“This program has been a wonderful opportunity for both the perpetrators of crime and the victims of crime to look into each other’s souls and hearts and discover very little difference between us.
“Forgiveness slowly grows from compassion, nurtured by love. Repentance is firstly fully owning and admitting what happened in the past so we can accept responsibility for our future behaviors. We can only know total freedom when we have known truth.
“I am extremely proud and honored to have been a member of the first group in an Australian prison, ‘The Noble Six.’ Personally, I feel more humble than noble as I’m sure this has planted a seed which will grow into a lush, evergreen tree. I feel bonded in a wonderful spirit of hope for our collected futures.
“I am honored to have met and been accepted by what I might call ‘The Phenomenal Five’ who despite my faults and grievous history, have seen that I am a person who has some worth and who can be found again—even though I was truly lost.
“May the Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace®: Justice and Peace and all who rest under it, grow and prosper.”
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Story credit: Martin Howard, Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace®: Justice and Peace, Queensland, Australia