I knew my grandfather was a devout Christian, but on Saturdays when my grandmother and I dropped him off at the old stone chapel, he was not there to worship. I learned, only when I was older, that in the basement of the church he had launched what rapidly evolved into a proactive organization designed to help convicted criminals re-integrate into society. While the group provided food, employment opportunities, and a basis for living outside of crime, for the most part he was there to talk. He would help previously incarcerated men and women take stock of the life experiences that had propelled them into criminal activity and offer them the opportunity to change life-long patterns of unlawful behaviour.
Although the juxtaposition of my gentle, elderly grandfather surrounded by rugged ex-cons may have seemed bizarre, the image accurately portrayed the qualities and values of him that I admired. Growing up he would tell me “if you have as much control over your mind as you do your eyes, you can choose what you see”. He believed that in every person there is both good and bad, but you can choose the lens from which you view them. My grandfather refused to define the participants solely on past mistakes; instead he saw the potential in them which led many of the offenders to rehabilitate themselves and go on to build productive lives.
For a long time I struggled with the notion that both good and bad could reside in an individual. It was not until a firsthand experience, when I became close friends with a repeat offender, that I began to understand my grandfather’s perspective. Despite a criminal history that stated otherwise, my friend was kind, giving, and thoughtful. This was a significant experience for me: my friendship with him starkly challenged the stereotypes that I had long held. My grandfather’s example and my recollection of the lens image enabled me to see my friend as an individual with potential and this has changed the actions I would like to take.
When you see the good in people it becomes easy to motivate yourself to be of service to them. The lesson that my grandfather had been trying to teach me years earlier was that despite the atrocity of their crime, offenders are still human beings. We share with them the same world, the same society, and the same human nature. This understanding is responsible for my interest in law. I have come to recognize the importance of not only defending the wrongly accused or effectively advocating for innocent victims, but providing those otherwise ostracized by society due to past mistakes an awareness of their rights. I feel that studying law and becoming a lawyer will enable me to translate my knowledge, understanding, and interests into action and results.
Since high school, I have been unwavering in my desire to pursue criminal law. My ambitions have been cultivated by the vision of giving individuals that are too often cast aside the opportunity to overcome their circumstances. I believe a legal education will allow me to send a message to my community that we should see past the rough exterior of offenders and recognize their potential to change. Armed with a driving passion and a solid foundation of perseverance, hard work, and discipline, I believe I am well prepared for the rigors of law school.
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