It seems like in the world today, we're hearing about tragedy after tragedy. There is so much hate, violence and uncertainty, and it can be scary at times. But one woman is sharing her story and acting as a shining example of love and forgiveness after tragedy struck her. This is her story, according to Upworthy.
One night Deborah Berkovits was walking to her car when she was approached by three guys. One of them asked her if she had any change, and then he said, "I'm serious. Give it up."
As soon as she screamed, 13-year-old Ian Manuel immediately fired his gun and ran away. He had shot Berkovits in the mouth, and immediately realized what he had done. He said, "I threw the gun in some bushes and went back to the neighborhood."
When Berkovits found out who had shot her, she was shocked. How could a 13-year-old child do this? Meanwhile, Manuel was facing some serious charges, and his mom advised him to plead guilty. She had been in prison before, and Manuel trusted her judgement, so he did exactly what his mom told him to do.
Manuel was only 13 years old when he was sentenced to a life in prison without parole. After being in prison for about a year, he decided to reach out to Berkovits to wish her and her family a merry Christmas and apologize for the horrific thing he had done.
He then asked if he could write to Berkovits. They started corresponding with letters, and their relationship started to grow as they communicated with each other. Berkovits knew he was only a child, and she forgave him for shooting her in the face.
Then a miracle happened. Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, wrote a letter to Manuel saying he wanted to challenge his sentence. The court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a child to be sentenced to a life in prison when it wasn't a homicide crime. Then Berkovits actually came to court to say that she doesn't believe Manuel should stay in prison and that his sentence wasn't "fair or just."
Manuel told the judge, "Me and Debbie have been waiting for years for the judicial system to catch up to my remorse and her forgiveness." That night, Manuel was released from prison.
While he was incredibly happy to start a life, it was difficult to get started. He left the world as a child and re-entered as an adult. He had no credit, no driver's license, no bank account and no apartment. He had to learn to grow up because he missed out on all of the opportunities for growth while he was in prison.
While it has been a long journey, Berkovits has actually played a huge role in helping Manuel function in the world as an adult.
Now he and Berkovits are great friends. She says, "I don't glorify him, but our relationship [has] spanned so many years from childhood to adulthood that he's almost like my child."
She then goes on to say, "I'm not saying he's not responsible for his actions, but when you're 13, you should be given the opportunity to change, to grow."
This is the perfect story of an incredible journey of growth and forgiveness. With all of the hate and uncertainty in the world, it's important to focus on the good things. Forgiveness truly sets the heart free, and if this woman could forgive the person who shot her in the face, you can forgive too.