Forgiveness is the Path to Healing our Communities

At the close of the 2018 Safe& Peaceful Chicago grant cycle, we asked select grant recipients to offer words of reflection about their work and the larger mission of the Initiative.

Lisa D. Daniels, founder, the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices, used her 2018 grant funding to produce and host a summit dedicated to truth and forgiveness.

The ongoing gun violence in the Chicago region not only causes hundreds of fatalities and thousands of injuries each year, but has also made victims of thousands of others who lose family members.

I’m one of them.

My youngest son, Darren, was shot and killed six years ago during a drug deal that went terribly wrong. Darren made many poor lifestyle choices, and this choice cost him his life. In counting those costs, my family and I paid dearly, and it would take two years before I finally found a path forward.

In 2014, I saw a play, “The Gospel of Living Kindness,” that told a story of gun violence on the South Side of Chicago. However, while telling this all too-familiar story, the play also gave the audience a rare glimpse into a backstory often overlooked by the media: a clear picture of both the death of the victim as well as the humanity of the assailant.

That afternoon, I forgave Darren for his choices. I began to believe his life could still have meaning and be a force for good, and I founded the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices. Our mission is to help survivors pick up the pieces and move forward.

In 2016, I was given an opportunity to read a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing of the man convicted of my son’s murder. I asked the judge for leniency on his behalf; his 15-year-sentence was cut in half, and with time served, he is scheduled to be released next year, in 2019.