I have been at the Durham Region Courthouse in Oshawa, Ont., as a chaplain in corrections for six years now. Every day, I am amazed as I watch people’s lives change in an instant. No, I am not talking about the victims, but those who have caused the incident to have happened.

“That’s Him”

A few years ago, I was asked to assist a young man accused of murder. I had never done this before as most of the clients I work with are up on assault, theft or other types of less severe charges.

As I stood in front of the judge, I asked him where the accused would be sitting.

“That’s him, directly behind you,” the judge replied.

I was amazed that a person charged with murder would be sitting in an open courtroom, let alone right next to me.

I froze as I looked straight into his eyes.

I agreed to help, but I did a lot of praying that night asking God to show me what He had in store.

“Thank You”

The next few months were long as I sat day in and day out in that courtroom assisting this man. I was only there to make sure that, if he needed to leave the courtroom due to a heart problem, he could signal to me and I would make contact with someone to escort him out.

I found out that he had been born with a heart defect and was not supposed to live past his 10th birthday. Now here he sat in his late 20s, accused of murder, a young man who had never lived a happy life, alone and facing a very frightening future.

The first day I checked in with him, I was cold. How could I look into the eyes of someone who had taken another person’s life?

But I also was looking into the eyes of a young man who had never been shown any sort of love or affection.

He looked straight at me and said, “Thank you for agreeing to take care of me through this.”

A Real Person

By the end of the first month of the trial, I had become more relaxed. Truth to tell, I didn’t have a lot to do. Sometimes it was fixing his tie, sometimes it was letting him know that a parent or someone was coming to court that day, or just asking how his night was. It got to the point where I could joke with him. I even managed to make him laugh now and then!

I started to realize he was just like me: a person, a real person.

The court case came to a close in December, right before Christmas. It was decided that my friend would be charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years with no chance of parole.

I cried. Yes, I cried. Here was this young man who had had no positive influence in life and would now serve 25 years behind bars.

After the sentence was announced, he turned to me and thanked me! He explained that no one had ever taken time just to watch out for him, no one had shown any care or concern for him. He wanted me to know that even just sitting in the court room, he was able to look out and see someone who was there for him.

I closed my eyes and thanked God for placing me right where He wanted me. And where I needed to be.

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