It Was Just a High School Assembly
Written by Dr. John L. Lund
The event was similar to what we could find at a typical high school in Southern California on a Friday for an assembly. There was a big game that night between rival schools and a dance was to take place afterwards. The bleachers in the gym were filled with nearly three thousand students. Excited to be out of their classes and with their friends, there were three thousand voices all abuzz about everything from the upcoming game to who broke up with who and what would be the appropriate attire for the evening. My daughter was a senior and one of the three thousand voices. She had brought home an announcement that the assembly speaker would be addressing the topic of "Overcoming Adversity." Uninvited and yet welcomed, I asked for and received permission from the principal to attend the lecture.
The noise from the student body was deafening and a determined vice-principal finally brought the crowd under control and yet there was a persistent din in the background. I quickly moved as close to the speaker's podium as possible in order to hear. What I expected was a polished presenter who would be dressed for success, someone filled with wit and wisdom, someone who had overcome drugs or alcohol and now was a role model at the top of his or her field of employment. What followed was a life changing moment.
Standing in front of the entire student body was a woman in her mid-forties. She was blind and flanked by her two daughters. She told the most horrific story of being stocked, sexually violated, stabbed and left for dead. Her details were so graphic that one could hear a pin drop as she told of how this vile man wrapped her in a shower curtain to dispose of her body. She was not dead as he had supposed. She groaned unconsciously as he tried to put her body in the trunk of his car. He immediately reached for a gun and placed it at the side of her head. The bullet removed her eyes and the bridge of her nose.
The gun shot brought a startled neighbor and the man fled. He was eventually apprehended by the police and served seven years in prison and is now back in society. The woman's husband divorced her and abandoned this woman and the two girls that sat behind their mother on the stage. She spoke of her long and painful facial operations and her recuperation. She related her experience of learning brail and going to college and eventually graduating. She bore testimony that every student in that gymnasium could overcome whatever adversity that life might place in their pathway and stood as a living witness.
When she finished, she invited the students to ask her any question that they would like. A special microphone had been set up for that opportunity. Two hundred or more students lined up. Most left the line when the first question was asked as they all had the same question. "How much time do you spend thinking about the man that did these terrible things to you and the fact that he is free to be in our society?"
She said, "I get that question everywhere I lecture. I will have to live with the consequences of what he did to me and I will be blind for the rest of my life, but I refuse to be a victim of self pity and neither should you. All of you will become the victim of the selfishness of others. You cannot choose how others may treat you but you can always choose how you are going to respond. Let me tell you that I have done the worst thing that any human being could ever do to that man. I have forgiven him and turned him over to God. He has had all of me that he is ever going to have. And I am not going to give him my todays, and I am not going to give him my tomorrows!!!.
There was a stunned moment of silence followed by every student jumping up and applauding this woman. There was an intrinsic truth in what she had said and we all knew it. It was just a high school assembly, but I left pondering this question, "How many of my todays and my tomorrows do I want to give to my yesterdays?"