“God made man because he loves stories.”
I heard this quotation at a reception I attended this week for Prison Fellowship. PF have recently moved to new offices in the building I work in, so they invited me to come and learn a bit about their work.
What I heard and read were stories; stories of broken lives transformed, stories of volunteers extending love to society’s rejects, stories of bereaved parents offering forgiveness to their son’s killers.
Stories, in short, of people.
I learned that one of PF’s most successful programmes is called Sycamore Tree. During this 6-week course, prisoners meet with people who have been the victims of crime. For many of them, this is revelatory; most of them have simply never grasped the fact that a victim is a person. The idea that their actions had consequences for someone else is utterly foreign to them.
In my ignorance, I had assumed that criminals didn’t care about their victims. What good could restorative justice programmes do, I wondered, wouldn’t they just be more painful for the victims as they had to look into the blank, cold dismissiveness of a man to whom their feelings meant nothing?
I’m sure there are criminals like that – there are those who feel so disenchanted with and rejected by the world, that they want to cause pain to people in it – but there are many who just don’t know.
Stories are powerful things, through them you can communicate truths which lectures and academic reports could never convey. They carry a message through the brain and into the heart. And the most powerful stories of all are the true ones, people’s real live experiences of the world and their testimony of dealing with issues.
I will soon be writing about one such biography here, the stunning, incredible testimony of love, generosity and faith in the darkest of circumstances. I’ll be holding a competition to win copies of the book – I went on ebay and bought three specially – but while I tantalise you with that thought tell me whose story inspires you.
Whose life has made you see something differently?
Whose experiences have you learned from?
Who do you aspire to be like…and why?
Links back to your blog are allowed, if you’ve written about someone inspiring over there – think of it as an informal (and very impromtu) blog carnival!