What if you were driving down the road, just a block from your home and then...you woke up in the hospital one month later? You had missed Thanksgiving, and you faced a completely different life than you had planned. Terribly injured, in pain and facing months, if not years, of rehabilitation. That is what happened to Victoria Ruvolo.
Earlier that night, a group of aimless teens stole a credit card and went shopping, picking up a frozen turkey as well as other items. As they got in the car and started driving, one teen named Ryan thought it would be funny to throw the turkey into oncoming traffic. As a result, the frozen turkey hit Victoria's car at approximately 80 miles an hour.
It crushed her esophagus, necessitating a tracheotomy. Her entire face was fractured and eventually she would need to have four titanium plates installed in her face to keep her bones together, as well as a wire netting to hold her eye in place since her eye socket had been shattered.
What would you do? How would you feel?
Prosecutors recommended giving Ryan 25 years in prison. As they pressured Victoria to agree to these charges, she found herself wanting to know more about Ryan. As she did so, she saw him as a person-not a monster. He was a struggling kid who did some really dumb things, not thinking about the consequences. She found out about his home life, things he struggled with, and much, much more.
She decided that since God had given her a second chance at life, then she should give Ryan a second chance, too. She was his advocate as she pushed for giving the minimum sentence of 6 months in prison and 5 years of parole. For his own good, she also asked for community service and counseling.
After the hearing, when the judge gave Ryan the lesser sentence, noting that it was Victoria who had asked for them, Ryan headed straight toward her. Everyone held their breath.
Ryan broke down and cried. He apologized, he thanked, and he cried some more. Victoria reached out and gave him a long hug. "It's OK. It's OK. Do good with your life."
To learn more about Victoria, and to gain her help with forgiveness in your own life, you can go to her personal website here. She also co-wrote a book not just about the WHY of forgiving, but more importantly, the HOW. You can get it at Amazon here.
Here are a few videos featuring Victoria's choice:
Family Discussion Guide
-What is the difference between justice and mercy?
-What would be justice for Ryan?
-How did mercy help him?
-Why did learning more about Ryan help Victoria to forgive?
-Why was Victoria helping herself when she chose to forgive?
-Project: Draw a chart or have a discussion, showing the ripple effect that night had on the lives of everyone involved: the person who owned the credit card, the other teens involved, the friend in the car with Victoria, Victoria's friends and family, Ryan's friends and family, the paramedics, etc.
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