In my last post about books I'd read, I referred to Walking After Midnight by Katy Hutchison, a B.C. woman whose husband was murdered in 1997 when he intervened in a neighbourhood party. About a month ago, the CBC also aired a documentary about this case entitled "Embracing Bob's Killer", which focused on the speaking work that Katy Hutchison does at schools and detention centres (often with Ryan, the killer, accompanying her). The documentary took a somewhat cynical view of her work, conveying it as a "business" and implying that she is forcing Ryan to do penance for his crime. Her book, by contrast, provides a fuller exploration of the journey she has taken in the past 9 years and the decidedly non-monetary reasons that she chose to pursue a speaking career.
Last weekend our book study group had its monthly meeting, and I led a discussion based first on the documentary. We watched a tape of it, discussed our impressions, and then looked at some passages from Katy's book. These excerpts, which focused on issues of forgiveness, facing pain, and "cleaning up the mess" of difficult situations and relationships, were very useful in giving the discussion a more positive tone and showing the importance of the work Katy does.
On Monday I decided to write Katy Hutchison an email (having obtained the address from her website) to tell her about our meeting and how helpful her book excerpts had been in shaping our discussion. The very same day, she wrote me back, explaining her own (negative) reaction to the documentary and her plans for the future, and thanking me for letting her know how we'd used the material in our group. It was really neat to see how "human" and real she was in her message and to know that she had obviously been uplifted by receiving my message about our book study.
As we observed in our group, there are many, many people to whom terrible things happen, but very few get the opportunity to share their story--and to do important social work with it--the way Katy Hutchison has. When we get a chance to connect with them, we can only be inspired by how they've taken what life gave them, and used it to make something beautiful.