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The Power Of Surrender
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The Power Of Surrender
A good man takes on evil.
[1,431 words]
Jeffrey (George) Winter
Journalist, counselor, author.
[May 2003]
[email protected]
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The Power Of Surrender
Jeffrey (George) Winter

    The mark of a man or woman is the depth of their surrender to God. There is no more worthy standard or powerful manifestation of love and truth than this.

    Implicit in surrender to God is nothing else than acceptance of complete and unconditional love. A love without comparison or equal on earth while at the same time beating in wait inside the heart of every person.

    Perhaps that's quite a statement, sounding unreachable and idealistic or intellectual and theological at the expense of being personal. But perhaps not.

    I met a man years ago in an area infested by gang activity. He'd lived there quite awhile and had grown to understand that neighborhood's people. Employed part-time, he used his spare hours to walk the streets as a kind of beacon of hope. His name was Tim. Three short letters that packed more power and joy in the midst of his presence than did the gunshots pack fear as they whistled by ears and houses.

    Tim had come from a broken home and remained loosely connected to an area gang whose member he once was. Physical problems had precipitated his withdrawal from much activity in that sphere of influence as it did his ability to work full time.

    Physically breaking if not broken, financially strained and emotionally exhausted from his efforts on the streets, he reached a breaking point. And then he broke.

    As Tim related to me, he remembered only waking in a hospital bed late one night. The first sound he heard was a gunshot from outside which told him two things: that he was still in his old neighborhood physically but that upon stepping out the hospital door, he could never return as the man that he'd been.

    "I'd seen the darkside for years," he recalled, "and I lived it to some extent even though deep down inside, I couldn't live with myself."

    "And I guess I knew that," he continued, "But not truly until that night."

    A large man with an athletic build from work in a steel mill, Tim joined a gang in his teens upon his father's death and mother's remarriage. He and his step-father never got along and as is often the case, he looked for affirmation where it could be found. And he found it in the gang.

    Granting all the malevolence and thuggery most associate with gangs, they provide an important outlet for the dispossessed, avoided and rejected. The dispossession, rejection and avoidance often precedes their gang membership and is what pushed them into it where they would find connection, brotherhood and a sense of control, power and identity. At least the gang's versions of those things.

    In short, boys and young men seeking to belong and to be recognized, to be accepted and at least in a world that apparently holds little opportunity elsewhere, to be important. Not unlike all boys and young men. Though gang membership convolutes the manner in which they express those things in a heinous way, one can understand allegiance to them even in the face of constant danger and death.
    "Not to mention," Tim once told me with a sad chuckle, "The financial benefits and women aren't too bad either."

    That being said, Tim joined a gang and was respected as much for his size as for his fearlessness. He had another quality however that though it seemed to conflict with the sense of impending threat that pervades and fuels gangs, attracted respect. Gentleness. Another gang members whom I came to know, told me that the joke "in the brotherhood" was that the safest man on the street was the one who dueled with Tim.

    "I never saw him shoot a man," another recalled, "He never raised a gun much less his voice."

    In time, it became apparent to Tim that the gang fit was not for him. Though he enjoyed the connection and brotherhood accrued from the respect his peers had for him, their focus was more on the power and control gangs could wield, the money it could gain and the women it could provide. Respecting a good man for who he was and for that which he stood paled in comparison.

    Given that, Tim disassociated himself from the gang though never leaving it. He had begun to see how important he could be to changing attitudes from within the evil that prevailed. Rather like the best antidote to poison which begins at its core and cures outward.

    He understood too that he was safe for the most part. He didn't condemn members who committed crimes nor did he disparage them to their counterparts or others. He knew why they were there and what it was membership offered. He was only too well aware that no matter how callous they may have become, indictment and condemnation from the outside would not change them.

   Had not society at large, numerous groups within it and even the police department itself attempted that method of correction for years? And hadn't gang membership, prevalence and crime only increased?

    So Tim figured he indeed was safe for the most part. For the other part, he didn't care because safety wasn't his concern. Simply put, it was doing the right thing. No matter the cost.

    And so the night he left the hospital, he returned to the neighborhood a different man. It wasn't that his life had been in danger because he had only been nicked by a stray bullet. His exhaustion had come from sleepless hours working with youth outside the gang and many within it, striving to get them to see what he'd previously suspected and now realized. To open their eyes to the hope amidst despair, the security camped aside anxiety and fear, the deep concern overriding callous dismissal.

    Available and essential things choked off only by prizes apparently more valuable. A situation not so unlike that for so many other boys and young men.

    It was the blood he'd lost that drained his consciousness that night. His consciousness but not his love. And so it was his love that returned to those streets. Re-shaped, re-figured and reverberating.

    Everyone knew Tim or at least knew the "big dude with the gimpy knee." And they respected him. Though he didn't wear the clothes of a social worker, don the collar of a priest or wield the stick of a patrol officer, he carried far more influence. While most of them were mired in their programs to address "the gang problem", he was actively moored in its midst. Like a beacon of hope will be in a stormy sea on a dark night where most men fear to tread.

    As it turned out though, that beacon shone a bit too brightly for some. Other gangs took issue, having grown tired of Tim's "interruptions of their plans" and effects on "their" members which confounded evil schemes. And with issue, they took arms.

    Some months after leaving the hospital, and I know this only second hand, Tim was cornered in an alley not far from his apartment by men he apparently didn't know. A discussion ensued and soon after that, an observer told me he heard Tim say, "Son, there's nothing you can take from me of any value except my words. I won't stop you, I won't turn you in and I certainly won't fight you. So I guess the decision is yours."

    And so it was. Three shots later, Tim fell to the ground. Two hours later in that same hospital from which he'd emerged a few months earlier, he died.

    At Tim's funeral a few days later, I watched as hundreds of people filed by his casket. Priests, policemen and social workers. Gang members who could take the chance to be seen paying homage to a man whose life stood opposed to that for which their membership stood and fought. And others that simply knew the man whose presence had once shone in their midst. Like a beacon of hope.

    I wondered through tears if they knew as did Tim, that hope would prevail though he was gone. That surrendered though his life was, his heart remained strong, its influence imparted to those still here.

    And life was still full even though one of its carriers had departed.

    As I left the church, my tears turned to a sad smile, acknowledging the deep gratitude that might best give this man the highest mark of honor.

    He had no doubt already received that where it most mattered. Because by his surrender, he acknowledged what did.



"Sounds like a story in L.A. Your stories are very personal. Writers come in two categories: those whow rite about reality and those who try to reshape it. I think I'm in the secnd and you're in the first. The two styles balance each other. This story has religious overtones, sounds like a relationship based theology, makes me think you're a believer in Christ as Savior, definitely unconditional love. " -- Shelley, Fullerton, California, USA.


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© 2002 Jeffrey (George) Winter
July 2002

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