…it turns out it’s difficult to write a letter of encouragement to a random registered sex offender.
How has this week gone down? I started the letter last Sunday. I got dinner with my friend Rob’s wife Claire (you may remember, she was mentioned here) on Thursday and busted out two blogs inspired by our conversation/my research following our conversation. On Sunday afternoon I volunteered with OASIS, where I learned many things about OASIS’s response to emergency situations (including emergency shelter), transitional services from said shelter back into a more independent role, and the educational presentations they provide in the community to teach individuals about maintaining healthy relationships. I finished the letter yesterday.
Why did it take so long to write? It’s difficult to write a letter to a stranger, much less an encouraging letter. How do you encourage someone you don’t know? In my experience, encouragement requires a knowledge of something the person you’re encouraging needs to be encouraged in. How do you encourage someone you don’t know anything about? Well, that’s not entirely true. I know this particular individual was convicted of second degree rape. New phrasing: How do you encourage someone when the only thing you know about them is that they were convicted of rape? I made a stipulation in the beginning of this project that kept me from a) letting the person I wrote to know that I knew and b) writing a letter with any sort of burden on my shoulders.
What I mean is that I’m not interested in telling him that “God still loves him” or that he can “be clean again” or anything else that implies that I know anything. I don’t want him to know where I found his address. I don’t want him to know that I know that he raped someone when he was my age. I don’t even want him to know my gender. (As such, I typed the letter.) What I do want, what I didn’t necessarily want when I started the letter but what I certainly want as I finish it, is for him to know that he’s loved. That God loves him the same way that He loves me the same way that He loves my best friend’s three-year-old daughter. I wanted that to be a good enough reason to send a letter and for that to be a good enough reason to receive a letter.
We all have something we struggle with. We have all had or currently have that sin that we are entangled in. We all have something. The primary difference in our somethings and in their somethings is that some of our somethings are posted online for everyone to see and some of our somethings are not. If this week has taught me one thing it’s that I’m genuinely ashamed to learn that I view my own sins in a much more positive light than those of someone else.