The men’s graduation guest speaker started by putting a jar on the table with $50 in it. His bring your own swear jar with a hefty deposit in advance and made everybody laugh.
The jovial mood was followed by complete silence as everyone froze in time. Several times throughout his speech he had to pause to recompose himself. We were told of the childhood horrors he lived through. He endured beatings by those who should have been there to love and protect him. Including other adults who should have known better. Every blow of physical, mental, emotional, and worse abuse was designed to crush him into ash. Sadly, sometimes for hours on end. He still carries physical scars and injuries to this day from what he suffered as a child. The only thing he ever wanted was to feel the love of his family. Instead, only to be constantly told he was a disappointment and a mistake.
One of the biggest turning points for him when he was 18, was buying a dog. It helped him to be responsible for something other than himself. He retreated into nature for solace to hunt and fish, a place where there was no judgement or abuse only fresh air and the smell of the outdoors. To this day he continues to visit the great outdoors where he can leave all his trouble behind and find space to just be himself.
He told the men that having a dream or goals to focus on is what saved him from continuing to live a self-destructive lifestyle. Making goals to achieve was advantageous to keep him going. When he would reach a goal, he would set another and another. He challenged the men to have a passion, a goal and to work for it.
When he finished speaking, the graduates instantly rose and one by one approached him to give him a hug. The level of respect for his bravery to share such painful moments went through the roof. It was extremely emotional to witness. I am glad that he found a safe place to be so vulnerable and get out in the open, some of what has never been told.
During the break one of the supporters shook the speaker’s hand and sincerely said “it is a privilege to have blokes like you in our community”. This gentleman verbalised what the rest of us were already thinking. Even though our speaker was way out of his comfort zone sharing, he proved to himself that he could and another step towards wholeness in his life was made.
This gentleman is a valued part of our Transform whanau. He is loved, valued, and respected just like anyone else who walks through our doors. And to him I will say - that which was meant for your destruction God has turned into good. You are not a disappointment, and you were not a mistake, not then, now, or ever! You have found a place to shine in our community, and no one will condemn you for that. Continue to stand tall and move outside your comfort zone because others will be blessed by it.