January 2015 Article

From Gabriel:

Sometimes in life you don’t realize that the things you are doing can all converge into one event and that can either be a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve had both happen to me over the same subject matter, but this time it was all for the good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

In May of 2005 I was convicted of child molestation. Yes, I said child molestation and yes, I was very guilty. There’s a lot of negativity around such a charge and to a certain extent, there should be. But there’s a past that the media doesn’t speak of. There is always something that led up to that point. There is always a story. What you should take from that is that my story does not matter when it comes to crime and punishment.

I did the crime, I paid the time. I do not regret that in the least. I owed that and much more to my nephew. He deserved a lot better than what I gave him. Where I think my story does matter is in how it shaped my mindset into thinking that what I was doing wasn’t so bad. It was what I was used to. It was what I had learned so, I did what I had been taught to do, even though I knew it was wrong on so many levels.

But when I came to a crossroads where the truth came out, I saw an opportunity, not a setback. I decided on that day to make a change in my life and I told the truth. Yes, I had molested my nephew. Every step I took from then on out was to change the direction my life was heading in. Not just for me, but for this child whose innocence I had tampered with and the childhood I had stolen.

He needed to know that I was wrong, that he was not at fault for anything that happened to him, that I was in no way angry at him for telling, that I still loved and cared about him, and that I was and always will be proud of him for having the courage to say something. Those were my thoughts towards him always while on my journey to rehabilitation. That he know unequivocally by no fault of his was he treated the way I treated him. I had a sick mind and it needed to be healed.

So, over the past nine years I have gone through a little over three years of counseling. The bulk of the counseling sessions being about my demise and the sexual, mental, and physical abuse I had suffered over the first 15 years of my childhood. What I had done to him was a no-brainer, I took on that responsibility immediately, so we didn’t spend much time on the subject. I had to look at my past and see how all the bad, both that I had done and what was done to me, culminated into a charge, conviction, and sentencing of 15 years, serving 3 in prison.

Upon release from prison, it was hard at times, but I was determined to prosper. I would call it purpose to prosper. You have to set your mind that no matter what, you will do whatever is good and right and just to the best of your ability. You won’t pass the test all the time, but you will find yourself succeeding far more than you fail.

Two years after my release from prison my sister forgave me and my nephew, who I think had forgiven me long before then, talked her into going back to court to change my stipulations. I was not allowed to have any contact with any children under the age of 16 and no contact at all with the victim or his family. That was very rough because in spite of my wrongs I was always there for my nieces and nephews. I was not allowed at any family functions/holidays and it was also hard to spend time with my siblings/friends because they’d have to find a babysitter to do so.

Even though it was hard I still felt like it was what I deserved so I took it all. When we went to court that time I was awarded supervised contact with children under the age of 16, which means an adult always had to be present. The restraining order was removed so that I could have contact with my nephew who was now 17 and my probation sentence was reduced by two years.

I could never describe how it felt to approach my nephew and his mother and be able to sincerely apologize for my wrongs. I am quite sure many offenders don’t get the privilege and on top of that have the victim accept said apology. A weight was lifted that day. At the time, it was the best day of my life.

It took me four years to find a decent job. Once it was obtained, I hit the ground running. I have retained this job for two years and have done well for myself. Well enough to actually move out on my own, something I have never been able to do. But the type of probation I was under makes it very difficult to find a place and rent it before someone else does. So, my only other option was to try and get the remainder of my probation taken off.

I was surprised at how impressed the judge was in all of my efforts and all of my trying to do/be better. I never realized that all the things I’ve been involved in would help him to see what a change I’ve made. My sister Shannon publishes a Myles Singleton Foundation book every year of all the things we have accomplished. She brought the book with her and the judge actually asked to see it. He saw my picture in there and read about the things that I do and then he asked me to explain them in my own words.

I told him that when I was in prison there was so much negativity in there and whenever someone would come back, because people always came back, one of the first things they’d say was that “Y’all said I would be back so, here I am!” I told him that I didn’t like that aspect of prison, in the least. That I wanted to be an example, someone to show the positive side of things. I wanted to show what it looks like to get out and stay out. That’s my goal. I also told him how we provide Christmas packages to inmates whose family would not or could not provide one to them. That we want to show inmates that someone does love them and cares in spite of what they’ve done wrong. Those things are very important.

I’ve never been in front of a judge before who smiled and was pleased to hear what I had to say until that day. It was an awesome feeling to have impressed someone, finally, who has so much decision making power over your future. I’m paraphrasing here, but he thanked me for coming forth and even asking to be released. He said he would have never witnessed someone who had been rehabilitated so well had I not come forth. He was very impressed by all that I have accomplished and that the only way to reward that would be to give me what I’m asking for.

My family and friends covered the last two rows in the back on the right hand side facing the judge. The DA had absolutely no argument to the contrary other than to say this could create a slippery slope where all sex offenders think that they may be able to get off probation early. He even stated that the victim in the case and his mother were on my side and refused to testify against me. The judge asked that all who were there on my behalf please stand and they all did. He then asked who each person was and then told them they may be seated.

He told the DA that he didn’t think that this would be a slippery slope at all because not too many people could come up with so much evidence of change and so many people on their behalf, including the victim. So, the judge decided, effective immediately that I be released from the remainder of my probation. He thanked me again for being there and I thanked him for all he had done that day.

As I walked away my nephew, the child that I had abused, was standing in front of me smiling with his arms wide open waiting to hug me, waiting to accept me, waiting to receive the very person that had stolen his childhood. I was undone. As I walked into his arms I broke down crying because all of my efforts, all of my trying was for this young man who held me with so much forgiveness. No longer a ten year old boy, but a grown man standing a head taller than me and I am so grateful for his forgiveness. He did this in front of the entire courtroom and the judge.

As we walked away side by side, arms around each other, I looked around the room and saw only smiles. Together we had turned something that was so awful and heartbreaking in the beginning into something beautiful and heartwarming. Right outside the courtroom doors his mother, my sister stood. Lol, someone said she had left to avoid the tears. She was my second hug and oh did the tears flow. Not one of the people who came with me that day had a dry eye as I passed the hugs one by one. Only the lawyer was dry eyed and I hugged him also, to everyone else’s amusement.

It’s been an awesome few days since then! I’ve taken two of my nephews and one niece out on separate occasions. I have my family back. I have the right to spend time with my nieces and nephews again, to encourage them and be behind them 100 percent! Most importantly, I can show them the love that they deserve as children, and be a part of them growing up not lacking real love from those who are supposed to love them and keep them safe. This was my most precious Christmas gift and I will never forget it! This is now marked as the best day of my life.

So, remember that all things that you do can work together for good. Set your mind to whatever you would like to accomplish in this new year and go for it. Do not let one failure affect the entire outcome. If you purpose to prosper, if you are determined to do better no matter what, you will. It may take time, it took me years, but the reward is far greater than the time it took me to get there.

Do not ever let anyone speak negative things over your life. God is bigger than the media, He is bigger than statistics and stereotypes. He’s even bigger than all the DAs and judges in the world who stand like sentinels over your future. They may look ominous and opposing, but God has the final say.

And last, but certainly not least, make every effort to make amends with the people you have wronged in your life. You can never right your wrongs because once it is done it is recorded in the history of time and it is remembered by those you have hurt. Some of whom may never forgive or forget. But you can start a brand new beginning. Set yourself on that course and you may gain back some of the people and things you have lost. You will never have exactly what you had before, but I can promise you from experience that it will be better!

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