Justice, Mercy, and Unmerited Grace

Hank Reddick ran the Alternative Education Center (ADC) for the county school system.  Students who got into trouble in their regular school were sent to the ADC rather than being suspended.  Hank had a job that no one would envy, but he did it with great success.  What follows are the stories of two students who have given their permission to share their experiences.

Naomi was an organizer and natural leader who got into trouble for organizing a shoplifting ring with her friends.  Rather than being sentenced to juvenile detention, she was sent to the ADC.  She just sulked through every day, and did no work.  But one day, Hank’s wife brought zucchini bread to school for the students.  For some reason, this lit a fire under Naomi.  Hank asked his wife to show Naomi how to bake bread.  That was all it took.  Naomi started a bread campaign for the community.  She and her friends started baking bread for homeless shelters, nursing homes, and for families living in dire circumstances.  Naomi got local grocery stores to donate the ingredients.  Churches opened up their kitchens.

Derrick was a loner.  He wasn’t a troublemaker, largely because he rarely came to school.  Derrick would leave home each morning but rather than going to school, he would wander around the community until he found something he wanted to draw.  And that’s how he spent his days.  Hank had the idea that Derrick might enjoy going to the nursing home with him to visit his mother.  Hank’s mother was a painter until she became a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.  As Hank visited his mother, Derrick took out his drawing supplies and drew a picture of Hank’s mother.  Rather than it being a picture of her lying in bed, Derrick drew a picture full of grace imagining how Hank’s mother would look once she was relieved of her earthly bounds.  That became Derrick’s calling in life.  His drawings of life after life were legendary for the influence they had on families during their tough moments.  And Derrick was no longer a loner.  He became a son, a grandson, a brother, a cousin, and a best friend of those he drew.  He loved to play his part in memories of those he drew.

When students left the ADC, they were given a plaque:

Always remember, each of us has a responsibility to give JUSTICE,
MERCY, and UNMERITED GRACE just as we have received the same.

As Hank explained:  “Justice is an expression of how others believe in us.  Students are sent here because there is a belief that they can lead successful lives.  Mercy is about forgiveness for past wrongs.  And unmerited grace is a pathway and guiding hand for the future.  Every one of us needs justice, mercy, and unmerited grace.  But we need to give these three virtues to others as well.”

“To me justice is how I withhold judgement of others and accept them as they are.  Mercy is my acknowledgement that all of us have our own challenges that are never truly met until we help others through their challenges.  And unmerited grace, to me, is being thankful for the opportunities we have in life that are given to us by others.”

 “I tell students that success in life comes in many forms.  If you live a life believing in justice, mercy, and unmerited grace, you will be successful.”

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“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word:  freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”  – Winston Churchill

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