I cannot share lessons from a death row experience simply because I haven’t been on one, however I was fortunate to be sitting in a calm and tranquil environment last Thursday evening and listening to a courageous man who had been on the death row for nearly 18 years for a crime he did not commit!
At London’s St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, I was fortunate to be in a crowd of around 40 people who had the chance to listen to Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon speak about his experiences on the death row where he spent 17 years, 8 months and 1 day before he was released for a crime he actually did not commit.
Around 20 years ago now, Mr Melendez was sentenced to the death row for execution when he was put down as guilty. 17 years later, he was released because he had an attorney come to his side and dig up tons of evidence including video tapes of the real murderer! Juan now travels the world giving such talks as well as lives in South America with his “mama” pursuing his call in life! It is also his biggest wish to see the death row abolished in whatever time he has left.
The biggest message I was able to take away from his talk is “choices.” Juan put a lot of emphasis on understanding that each and everyone has a choice. He said he made the choice to forgive those who got him in their for nearly 18 years because it was his choice. If he chose to continue being angry, it would only hurt him inside and so his choice was to forgive. He spoke about times on Florida’s death row where he nearly gave up, thought of suicide and just didn’t see the point. But what came to his rescue were letters from his friends and family – especially his “mama” who wrote to believe in himself and in God and that it would be okay. Well, as he has shown, he made the choice to follow his “mama’s” words and so he was freed!
Each and every one of us have a choice. A choice to make out how we live each moment. In this moment of writing, I have chosen to write this post. Two days ago, I was my partner’s “servant for the day” on Valentine’s day – another choice I made. It was my choice to start a business at the age of 17. It was my choice to also go to university to study genetics – a topic that’s passionate to me.
If you are not doing something at the moment based on choice, you will not enjoy it (maybe in exceptional circumstances, you will!) but the matter of the fact is that, one only enjoys what is close to their heart and passionate with it. I chose not to continue studying physics after my GCSE examinations because I did not enjoy it. At the age of 14, my parents told me to study Business and for two years I did. I didn’t enjoy most of it, because although I had a choice, I didn’t grasp the choice well enough. I can say now that the business skills have been extremely useful all the same.
If there’s enough passion and action behind your choice, you will always succeed. I recommend visiting Juan Melendez’s website at www.voicesunited4justice.com and getting involved in any way to abolish the death row.
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