Choices and Consequeces: Solona Islam quits job in battle to make ends meet – Pleads guilty to Prostitution.

March 4, 2011

Sometimes all is not as it seems.  Described as a teacher – prostitute, Solona Islam has found herself in a very public debate over the choices she made in order to meet her desperate need for money.  Every choice has a consequence and featured nationally in various media outlets is not what Ms. Islam expected – I’m quite sure.

According to news reports:

A high school teacher in Little Rock has resigned after school officials learned she pleaded guilty in November to a prostitution charge.

McClellan High School algebra teacher Solona Islam, who had been put on paid administrative leave, told Fox16.com she resigned because she didn’t want to have the school district involved in her personal matters.

The 27-year-old was arrested Oct. 29 on misdemeanor charges of prostitution and operating a business without a license but Police Sgt. Cassandra Davis said the school district was not notified because the charge was not a felony.

Islam said she was desperate for money and originally thought she was just going to work for a dating service. She pleaded guilty on Nov. 5 and was given a suspended 90-day sentence and a $640 fine.

School officials told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that they finally learned of the plea from a reporter and suspended Islam on Wednesday.

Islam, who was in the fifth year of her teacher career, told Fox16.com that she hopes this attention doesn’t affect her ability to find another job.

Choices and consequences!  As I read this story I began to recall those choices I made that, like Solona, began a road to recovery.  In my book – SECOND CHANCES – I stated:
I had rationalized my actions and certainly could correct any choice I made. I wasn’t a bad person, just a smart one, I thought. I knew how to beat the system. Feeling so invincible, I was soaring high; I believed that nothing could touch me. Little did I know.
I can’t personally speak for Solona Islam, but I can imagine that she lived this dual self never really expecting to get caught – thinking that she could walk away at any time.  But, often we find that lessons come at us when we least expect them and in ways we never consider.
While on Earth, we have a great opportunity for growth. Unfortunately, many of the lessons contained in experience are hidden from our conscious view within our subconscious mind. Because of the veil placed over humanity, most of us function with only a dim awareness of our purpose or mission. Life is our teacher, through which we receive many experiences. At some point, as we grow, the lessonsshow themselves. Then we can reflect on our experience and reap the consequences of our lessons.
I have come to understand that a situation that is less than joyful is there to teach us important lessons. We can learn from the lessons presented and gain insight and growth. That’s our choice. To progress and learn, however, it is helpful to express our conscious intent to do so. The reality is that unless we recognize the lesson, events may continue unfolding until the lessons intensify. We must remain open to the teachings and gifts we are receiving in order to grow and evolve.
As we grow in our spiritual journey, we can progress to the point that we step out of our bodies and become conscious observers. At that point, we begin to sense that we’re more in control of the situation than we imagined. By looking from the outside in, we can make a choice to respond in a way that serves our highest good. Self-awareness, in part, means that the veil has been partially lifted as we progress through our life lesson.
Perhaps before we quickly judge the humanness of Islam’s choices, we can for a moment look at the divinity of her life and know that deep beneath the choices shown are wonderful opportunities to learn and grow.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME

Ethics and Redemption – Do Sexual Abusers Deserve a Second Chance?

January 13, 2011

From time to time I open my blog for guests who have unique insights related to ethics and choices.  I am proud to feature an interesting and perhaps controversial entry by a dear friend and colleague – Mary Auda.  Mary helped me in writing my new book “Second Chances.”  She is a skilled writer and pulled from me many emotional ties that made “Second Chances” really connect with readers.  For her help I am truly grateful.  Here, Mary is opening up herself and sharing not only an interesting perspective but a part of herself as well…as Mary has been a victim of child sexual abuse.  I am proud of what she has done to find healing in her life and know that her comments below will open debate around a very sensitive subject.

“Mary, I want to apply as a lay counselor in the counseling ministries,” George said.

I was a bit surprised.  I didn’t know George very well other than he had spent time in prison.  “That is great,” I replied.   I am one who believes we all deserve second chances in life.  I’ve often said when judgment would arise “There by the grace of God go I”.  None of us are perfect.  If you believe in sin, then sin is sin.  There are no degrees of sin.

“You may think differently after I share my story,” George said.  After taking a deep breath he continued “I went to prison because I sexually abused my two daughters.”

I took a moment to breathe to center.  Hearing his words touched my pain deep inside as I had been sexually abused as a child by my father.  I knew it was important for me to hear his story.  I had only just begun dealing with my issues and really had no desire to hear his story.  For some reason unknown to me, I said “Tell me about it.”  I didn’t mean to say those words.  What I wanted to say is “You need to leave and have no right to even speak with me about it.”

He proceeded to tell me about the events leading up to his incarceration.  He shared why he sexually abused his children, how he felt about what he did and the time spent in prison.  He demonstrated a lot of remorse, sadness and shame.

“Are you feeling remorseful because you were caught and had to go to prison or are you feeling remorseful because of the pain you inflicted upon your daughter?” I asked.  I needed to know.

“I loved my daughters and can’t believe that I sexually abused them.  I rationalized it that I was teaching them about sex.  It was my sick mind.  They did nothing wrong.  I was wrong,” he replied.  There were tears in his eyes.

I felt a myriad of things: compassion, anger, hurt, confusion.  For me personally I wanted to appear that I was not affected by my experience of being sexually abused.  Somehow I thought that made me stronger when in reality it was simply a layer of protection. I was quiet.  George alternately looked down at his hands and up at me.  I finally willed myself to speak.

“George,” I said, you served your time.  Because of the nature of your crime, I need the Counseling Center Board approval and the Elder Board approval.”  Although I was the Executive Director of the Counseling Center, certain decisions needed board input.

George said, “I want to help people.  I want this to have some meaning greater than the sexual abuse of my daughters.  I want to help people because I hurt people.”

“I understand,” I replied.  “I will get back with you and let you know.  By the way, thank you for sharing your story.  That took a lot of courage.  I will let you know what the boards say.”

George walked out of my office that day.  I sat for a while staring out the window.  I was feeling a little sick to my stomach because sexual abuse is a major issue for me.  I didn’t share with him my story.  I was angry with him for what he did to his daughters knowing that they had a lifetime of dealing with the effects of having been raped by their father – the one man in their life with whom they should feel safe.  I was also still in a lot of denial about the extent of the effects of my being sexually abused by my father.

I didn’t know if he should be trusted in a counseling situation.  I really believed, and still believe that redemption and mercy are available to everyone regardless of their choices.  I believe that all people are divine expressions of God and that their choices, no matter how heinous, should not define them.  I am not saying there are no consequences, there are certainly consequences and we all must experience the consequences of our choices.

Now I was being challenged in a way that affected me deep within my soul.  Could I accept George as a child of God who sexually abused his children?  Is he not as valuable as anyone else?  After much mulling it in my head and heart, I picked up the phone and initiated the process for review by the board.

There would be much debate by the boards.  Some were clearly on the side of forgiveness and he should be allowed to participate in the counseling ministry of the church in some capacity.  Others were clearly on the side of once a rapist, always a rapist and he can’t be trusted in such a capacity.  Still others were concerned only about how it would be perceived if we allowed a convicted child molester to counsel.  Would we lose credibility and would some people leave the church?  I suggested that perhaps we could limit his ministry to men only and he be subjected to intense supervision by the licensed therapists.

Eventually it was decided that he could not be active in the church counseling ministry, consequences still were active with respect to the choices George had made.  In this case, because he was caught, prosecuted, convicted and open and honest about the nature of his crime, the boards made a decision that he could not participate as a lay counselor.  Had he not had a conviction and been honest, the decision may have been different.

I told George the board decisions.  He was sad.  He had hoped to make a difference in this world and just not leave a legacy of pain.  I told him that there were consequences to every choice we make and this was just part of the consequence.

“I understand the decision.  I served my time,” he said. “Is there ever an opportunity that I might be given a second chance to show the world that I am not a demon?”

It was a fair question.   I shared with him at that moment my story.  We talked about his daughters never being able to get back what they lost physically, emotionally, spiritually and would never have a healthy relationship with their father.  He understood and once again expressed deep remorse.

Many years have passed and George and I are not in contact.  I’ve spent 57 years either being abused or healing from the abuse.    I’ve gone from all sexual abusers ought to be put to death to a better understanding and openness to forgiveness.  I thought about George the other night and the question that arose is – do sexual abusers deserve a second chance or is it unethical, because of the nature of their crime, to give them a second chance?  Does the crime define whether he should be given a second chance?  Perhaps he doesn’t get to work with children but why not be able to work with men?

I know the long term effects of being sexually abused.  I’ve lived them.  I know I can never go back to regain the life I could have had had I not been sexually abused.  I also know through choosing to move out of my prison of victimization, that I get a second chance to have a fulfilling life now.  To live totally free means that I choose to not hold onto bitterness and resentment.  Perhaps by giving this man a second chance it assists in changing his daughter’s experience.  Perhaps by giving this man a second chance it can help other men who are abusers to stop and get help even if it means jail time.  Perhaps his second chance will help heal the world.

I thank Mary for her openness and boldness in sharing this story and posing this interesting question regarding SECOND CHANCES.  As I read this I had an interesting question myself – and that relates to how one’s SECOND CHANCE manifests.  Perhaps George has found his “Second Chance” but not in the manner that he was initially seeking.  Perhaps, we try to define how, where or when we get our “Second Chance” when, in fact, in divine order our “Second Chance” may come in ways we least expect and in manners that provide greater meaning.  What do you think?  Should some people ever be given a “Second Chance”?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

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Chuck Gallagher is the author of the new book SECOND CHANCES: Transforming Adversity into Opportunity.  The book – SECOND CHANCES – carries you on a journey that is transformative, inspirational and opens the door to exploring life changing choices that through determination can create the Opportunity you need to enjoy the Success you desire!

This book, called an “Inspirational self-help masterpiece” was written over the scope of many years and through the experience of many hard lessons learned.  I hope that through  this book, you too, may uncover the keys to unlock your prison and find a happier life. You have the power to unlock those chains that bind you and turn adversity into opportunity. You have the power of choice.


Second Chances – Michael Vick to Ted Williams – What a Difference a Week Makes!

January 8, 2011

At the end of 2010 President Obama congratulated the Eagles for giving Michael Vick a “Second Chance” and a media fire storm erupted.  Guess 2010 went out with a bang!  Then the first week of 2011 Ted Williams “golden voice” was discovered and “Second Chance” offers poured in.  What a difference a week makes!

Living in the light of a SECOND CHANCE – I have to honestly say, I was a bit discouraged by the response from the country related to President Obama’s statements about Vick.  Of course, Tucker Carlson’s (from FOX) opinion was shared far and wide that Vick should have been executed.  That’s absurd.  Yet, most of the comments seemed to have a common thread like this comment: “Perhaps the President should praise the many who have committed crimes, chosen to turn their lives around, and still live in poverty.”  It seemed that while folks were warm to the idea of a “Second Chance” there was a underlying feeling that success should allude those who have done wrong.  And, well, Michael Vick’s return to success so soon seemed to be a bit much for folks to swallow.

REALITY CHECK!

Second Chances don’t come easy – don’t come without a great deal of pain – and don’t typically come quick.  Reality is – “Second Chances” generally come – if they are even recognized – after life cleansing experiences that prepare the person for a new way to experience life.  And so seems the story of Ted Williams.   SEE THE VIDEO HERE!

The Ted Williams story – going from homeless to viral media sensation, like Michael Vick in many ways, is unusual.  Doral Chenoweth, a web producer for the Columbus Dispatch is the one who filmed the video that for Ted Williams was life changing.  But the story didn’t just happen the first week of 2011, rather, it was a series of mishaps that turned into the choice that made it happen for Mr. Williams.

According to an article by Jeff Labrecque – this story was almost a non-story.  It was ONE CHOICE that made a big difference.  And before sharing the story, think about those few words above.  It is true – ONE CHOICE – is all it takes to turn your life around or find the power of SECOND CHANCES!  Labrecque’s story reads in part as follows:

He’d (Chenoweth) first encountered Williams, his cardboard sign, and his baritone pipes a few weeks before that when he and his wife were driving past on their way to the store. “He just let loose with that velvety, old-school voice,” Chenoweth tells EW. “We had a good time, but you know, life goes on. The light turns green. I threw him a dollar and off we went.”

About a week later, though, Chenoweth, who’s worked for Dispatch for 20 years and calls himself a modern-day backpack journalist, endured a slow news day and needed something — anything — to shoot. He found Williams at the same corner, and this time when he said, ‘Say something with that great radio voice,” he had his FlipCam rolling. “It was so touching,” recalls Chenoweth. “I thought it was sweet.”

But Chenoweth had no clue he had gold. He felt the video’s ending was awkward and the clip ran a little too long. So he sat on the footage for weeks. Then, on Monday, when he needed something fresh, he dug up the video on his computer and popped in on to the paper’s website. And… nothing special. “It kind of did an average number of hits for a video on our website on a Monday,” says Chenoweth. “But Tuesday, some guy from Ohio State calls me out of the blue and says, ‘Your video is about to go viral.’ By Tuesday night, it was skyrocketing. And Wednesday was just a media frenzy.”

Chenoweth has spent the last few days witnessing Williams’ surreal ride from homelessness to mega-stardom. “It’s probably easier getting through to Obama [now] than Ted,” he jokes, adding that Williams is handling the transformation “like you might expect. He’s kind of excited, frazzled, but sharp all at the same time.”

About to fly home after a whirlwind trip to New York City, Chenoweth was reflective, hopeful for Williams, and still amazed by the events. “Maybe if I had released the video the week before Christmas, it never would’ve gained any traction in the national media,” he points out. “God’s in control of everything and God’s in control of this video. Ted’s got a real good outlook on it and so do I.”

I like what Chenoweth said, “God’s in control of everything and God’s in control of this video.”  Perhaps those words are worth reflecting on.  For those of us who believe in God – and I do – I agree 100% God is in control of everything.  While I have “free will” to make some stupid choices – and I did – God was in control, knowing that I, like everyone, had to experience the consequences that were perfect for me.  Likewise, “Second Chances” don’t come just because, they or the opportunities for them appear when we are ready to make life changing choices.

I welcome Ted Williams unique opportunity for his “Second Chance” and know that his story has inspired many.  Perhaps as we move from 2010 into 2011 – from one decade into another – we will find a spirit of hope and a knowing that when we make the right choices we, too, can find our “Second Chance”!

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!

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My path of choices which produced some “negative consequences” and powerful “positive results” is chronicled in my new book – SECOND CHANCES: Transforming Adversity into Opportunity.    If you’d like to read some excerpts click here.  Otherwise, if you’d like to know how to gain your “Second Chance” I, with humility say, I think my book will provide some needed insight into how you can transform your life and choices into opportunity and success.


Second Chances? Barack Obama to Michael Vick – Have We become a Compassionless Country?

December 30, 2010

Well, for a guy who believes in Second Chances (hence the title of my new book – Second Chances) I was shocked and saddened at the media storm or fire related to Barack Obama’s comments praising giving folks – namely Michael Vick – a “Second Chance.”  As a nation have we become so full of hate and intolerance that we no longer can tolerate the idea that “Second Chances” are worth aspiring toward?

So this past Monday the following was reported by the Washington Post – quoted here:

On Monday, the buzz was about how the president had weighed in on the redemption of Michael Vick. Obama phoned the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to praise the team for giving a second chance to the quarterback, who is again a National Football League star 19 months after leaving prison for his role in a horrific dogfighting ring that killed pit bulls by electrocution, hanging and drowning.

The president has not spoken publicly about the call, though aides acknowledged that it took place. But Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports that during their conversation Obama was passionate about Vick’s comeback.

“He said, ‘So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance,’ ” said Lurie, who did not indicate when the call occurred. “He said, ‘It’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.’ And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.”

While I may not agree with a great deal of what the President says – in this case he’s right!  Rarely do those who serve time get a “fair second chance!”  But AND THIS IS IMPORTANT – “Second Chances” are not just about those who have committed crimes and done their time.  Obama’s comment that “we did something on such a national state that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall” is really at the heart of the matter.

But, with such compassion stated by our President – the firestorm begins.

So what’s the fallout of suggesting that it is good to give folks a “Second Chance” – enter FOX News broadcaster Tucker Carlson, who said: “Michael Vick killed dogs in a heartless and cruel way. I think, firstly, he should have been executed for that. The idea the president of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs is beyond the pale.”

WOW – TALKING ABOUT FROM LEFT FIELD (oops I should have said “Right” field for FOX)

Stop!  Media extremism is in play here.  Let’s get the ratings and buzz huh Tucker?  Dumbass statement that Vick should be executed is nothing more than an UNETHICAL PLOY to sensationalize a true heart-felt comment by Obama.  Have we come to be so angry and so hard-hearted that we will take the opposite opinion of anyone who does not share our ideological belief.  Wonder if Obama had said that he felt Vick should be banished to a desert island never to return to the US – would Tucker have then found it in his heart to give Vick a “Second Chance”?  Is it about coverage and opposites – winning or losing – black or white?  Have we fallen that low as a country?

What about “Second Chances” in other areas – love, being a father, recovery from cancer – Is the concept of getting a “Second Chance” becoming foreign to Americans?  Or is it the media that finds that NO SECOND CHANCES make for better ratings?  If it were his child that needed a “Second Chance” I think Tucker’s words would ring hypocritical this week!  Tucker what about it?  Care to comment?

BUT TUCKER’S NOT THE ONLY ONE…!

Reported in the LA Times –

But Bill Smith, the founder of Main Line Animal Rescue in the Philadelphia area, bristled at Obama’s characterization that the Eagles’ signing of Vick was motivated by wanting to give a convicted felon a second chance.

“If he couldn’t throw a football, he wouldn’t have had a second chance,” said Smith, who organized a campaign last season to collect food for animal shelters every time Vick was sacked on the field. “This isn’t about giving anyone a second chance; it’s about who can make the Eagles organization more money.”

Now I’m an animal lover, but the jaded view that it is only about money just doesn’t hold water.  Obama’s point was that Vick is a national figure and that showing compassion and providing a “Second Chance” is something worthwhile.  Vick isn’t the only one who’s been giving a “Second Chance” in life, but he is public.  I wonder if Bill Smith’s grandson (just an example) had been imprisoned for selling drugs and released, would he be in favor of him receiving a “Second Chance”?  Seems to me that for Bill it’s about his passion for animals that his view is so jaded?  Maybe I’m wrong.  Perhaps Bill will comment!

By the way, Bill did a great job making Obama’s point.  “If he couldn’t throw a football, he wouldn’t have had a second chance,” is exactly the point, we need someone as a model of what a “Second Chance” could mean and from personal experience, there are far too few people who will stand up and offer a “Second Chance”.  That’s sad!

WHERE FROM HERE?

First, I’ve been to prison for crimes I committed.  I am not proud of that, but it is a very real fact of my life.  It has been nearly 15 years since my release and yes, I have been given a “SECOND CHANCE”!  For that I am deeply grateful each day of my life.  Here’s an excerpt from my new book “Second Chances” that describes the night it became clear that my crimes were discovered and I had to face the truth that I was (at that time) nothing more than a liar and a thief.  It was the darkest night of my soul…

That night was the darkest night of my soul. That call that I shared didn’t make it better. It didn’t eliminate the consequences. It didn’t remove the pain. Rather, it gave me hope, hope that if I could make poor choices that would, most certainly, bring painful consequences, I also possessed the power to make positive choices with positive results.  His comment to me still resounds in my heart today. He said, “You have made a terrible mistake, but YOU are not a mistake! The choices you make moving forward will define your life forever and provide the foundation for your children’s lives. Think carefully as you make this choice!” 

When he said to me, “YOU are not a mistake,” it hit me─while the past cannot be changed, the life we are given and the choices we make moving forward are the only things that count. I felt a burden lifted. I could not change the past; all I could do was face the consequences. It was within my power to make good choices, now and in the future, that would produce a fruitful outcome. That was my destiny!

Do I believe in “SECOND CHANCES” – absolutely otherwise I would not be here and I AM here for a reason!  Perhaps that is the message that Tucker Carlson and others need to get!  We all, at some point in time, need a “Second Chance”!
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

Bernie Madoff and Mark Madoff’s suicide – the Reality of Prison! Choices and Consequences

December 13, 2010

Doing presentations on business ethics and fraud prevention, every presentation I begin starts with the statement – “Every choice has a consequence!”  No where is this more painfully obvious then the very public unfolding of the consequences begun many years ago by Bernie Madoff.

Two years to the day – the day Bernie Madoff admitted creating the largest Ponzi scheme in US history, his son, Mark Madoff, committed suicide.  Apparently the pressure of all that was taking place (as the Madoff saga is far from over) was far too much for Mark to bear.

Some might ask, well how would you know?  The answer is simple…I’ve been there.  Having created a Ponzi scheme (not something I am proud of, but it is a fact that I openly share), I know about the emotional pressures that come with the consequences of choices I made.  The magnitude of my crime is dwarfed by that of Bernie Madoff.  Yet, pressure is pressure and likely it is all relative.

I candidly feel for Mark Madoff – knowing that his “dark night of the soul” had to be very light less in order for him to elect to end his life.  Beyond that, the pain that Bernie Madoff must feel is, too, enormous.  Even as I write this I can almost hear readers shaming me for having some compassion for Bernie.  But, honestly, I do.  The pain a father must feel knowing that his actions contributed to a depth of depression that contributed to his son taking his life is great.  I cannot honestly imagine that pain.

According to Ira Sorkin, Bernie Madoff’s attorney, Madoff will not attend the funeral of his son, Mark, out of consideration for his daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

Housed in a medium security prison for the rest of his life, Bernie Madoff has had his life reduced to working for around 12 cents per hour and wearing simple prison clothing day in and day out.  His brilliance will not be remembered.  Rather he has become the butt of jokes – “Charles Ponzi created the scheme, but Bernie Madoff with all the money!”  What a sad legacy.

As I said…I know the feelings of loss, inadequacy, hurt and what I and others have described as a “dark night of the soul.”  My new book describes my experience well.  Perhaps this excerpt will give some insight into that feeling that comes from facing a consequence that seems so great that ending a life is the only option – at least at the time.

SECOND CHANCES – excerpt:

At 7:11 p.m. that evening, I grabbed the Yellow Pages and began calling clinics─anyone who I thought might help me. Frankly, I don’t recall what I was looking up. I do remember that there were no listings under “suicide”─in fact, that wasn’t a category. So I looked up physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, anything that started with a “P”. Honestly, I don’t remember who I did call─a proctologist, as far as I knew. The only thing that flooded my mind was I needed help.

“You’ve reached the office of Drs . . . Our office hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Our office is closed. But if you’ll leave your name and number, we’ll be happy to call you first thing in the morning. Have a nice day!” Somehow, when you’re thinking of ending your life, “have a nice day” just doesn’t seem appropriate. And unfortunately, that’s the message I got over and over.

Calling became an obsession. It was the one thing I could do, one action that I felt in life I had some control over. “Just one more dial,” I would say to myself as I pressed the buttons on the phone, listening to the ring, hoping for an answer.

“Dr. Benson’s office.” That was the second time that day I was stunned. After getting recording after recording, I was somewhat unprepared for the possibility that someone would answer. Yet someone did.

“I need to talk with someone. I’m from out of town,” I somehow stammered.

“Actually, our office is closed. I was just walking out the door and thought this was my wife. Give us a call in the morni . . . ”  Before he could finish his sentence, I blurted, “I’m thinking of committing suicide!”

Silence─then the voice said, “Let’s talk.”

For the life of me, I can’t recall what was said between us as I lay on that lonely hotel bed. We could have talked for two minutes, twenty minutes, or two hours. I just don’t remember. What I do recall is that this total stranger, a man who I had never met, took the time to help me see past the grand illusion I had created and uncover the real me inside.

That night was the darkest night of my soul. That call that I shared didn’t make it better. It didn’t eliminate the consequences. It didn’t remove the pain. Rather, it gave me hope, hope that if I could make poor choices that would, most certainly, bring painful consequences, I also possessed the power to make positive choices with positive results.

His comment to me still resounds in my heart today. He said, “You have made a terrible mistake, but YOU are not a mistake! The choices you make moving forward will define your life forever and provide the foundation for your children’s lives. Think carefully as you make this choice!”

When he said to me, “YOU are not a mistake,” it hit me─while the past cannot be changed, the life we are given and the choices we make moving forward are the only things that count. I felt a burden lifted. I could not change the past; all I could do was face the consequences.  It was within my power to make good choices, now and in the future, that would produce a fruitful outcome. That was my destiny!

For information on how to obtain a copy of SECOND CHANCES – visit www.secondchancesbook.com or Amazon.com


Wesley Snipes first Day in Prison – A reflection from personal experience – SECOND CHANCES by Chuck Gallagher

December 10, 2010

Yesterday was Wesley Snipes first day in prison.  Today…the first full day I know how he feels.  I’ve been there.  It is no fun…

Here’s an excerpt from my new book SECOND CHANCES that might give a glimpse of what that first day’s experience is – or at least – was for me.  We all make mistakes, but as I was told – “You’ve made a big mistake, but YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE!”  Those words were powerful and in many ways saved my life.

Wesley’s life is powerful and it is my hope that Wesley can move past the feeling that he’s somehow a victim, to the recognition that all thing happen for our good if only we will become still enough and reflect inward enough to find it.  Here’s to Wesley’s time – may it be beneficial to him and may he use it and his celebrity to bring light and love to others.

SECOND CHANCES EXCERPT:

By 3:25 p.m., I had been fully processed and was escorted to my cell, my new home. As I entered the cell, my cell mate, Buck, an African-American man of mid-stature, walked out. He gave me a quick once-over, never uttering a word. By this time, I had been instructed to change into my prison uniform and be prepared for “count time” at 4:00 p.m. I guess that meant something to most people, but it didn’t connect with me. Doing as I was told, I changed and sat on the bed assigned, waiting for further instructions.

At three minutes to 4:00 p.m., Buck reentered the cell. He just looked at me again─sizing me up, I suppose. Then a noise broke the chatter of inmates in this area.

“Count time. Count time.”

Again, Buck looked at me, pointing at the floor as if I knew what to do. I stood up just as the guard passed by our cell, counting each inmate as we stood in silence. I watched others, waiting for a cue as to what to do next. When the count was done, the chatter began, and once again, Buck left the room with no comments.

Seated on my excuse for a bed, I began to drift into a contemplative state. Now disconnected from all that I knew, all that was familiar, I was preparing to enter a part of life that would prove to be painful.  And yet, it was an opportunity for accelerated growth. We all have thoughts, beliefs, and associations; we interpret and make judgments. I did not, at that moment, think of prison as a place for growth; rather, it was a place of dread, a place to be endured. I would assume that most people feel that the consequences they face, especially if they judge them to be negative consequences, are unwanted and carry no benefit other than pain. Yet, through experience─my own as well as what is reported by others─often the worst experiences we face are our greatest teachers if we are open to allowing the lesson.

As the first night began to pass, I can’t say my first day in prison was fraught with any danger. I was just a number. I was another person placed somewhere where he didn’t want to be, dealing with the internal issues of doing time for something and learning in a new and unfamiliar environment. Staring at the ceiling of the cell and trying to get warm under the prison-issued sheet and blanket, I wondered if there was ever a time when the choices I made were worth the price.

My eyes welling with tears, but crying my first night was not an option.  Before the crack of dawn on day two, the guards banged on the door to the unit and began flashing on the lights. Buck was immediately out of bed as the workday began. I, on the other hand, was bewildered. I suppose I expected prison to be a place where you stayed in your bed until you wanted to get up, did nothing, and did nothing some more.

Buck looked up at me, as I was on the top bunk.  “You better get up and get out of here before 8:00 a.m. or the ‘hacks’ will put you to work.” With those words, Buck was off to his job.

It was 6:45 a.m.

Well, he talks, I thought to myself, not knowing what to do. Just then, the silence was broken. Another inmate, a middle-aged guy, poked his head around the corner.

“You eat?” he asked with a tentative look on his face, as if he might have disturbed me.

“Your first day here?”

“Yeah,” I replied, honestly glad to have someone who showed some interest. Not that I expected a welcoming party, but rarely had I ever been somewhere where you were looked right through, as if you were nobody. Perhaps it was learned behavior, but even in the “projects,” people seemed to have some basic level of respect and concern. Yet, except for the African-American guy from yesterday, no one seemed to care. Well, not until now.

“I’m Ham.”

“Chuck,” I replied. He offered no hand, and neither did I. I had already made up my mind that I would observe and take my lead from others who had been here awhile. I did not know the ropes, and being a leader in prison was not something I had ever aspired to.

“Follow me. Let’s get some breakfast.” With that, Ham moved out, expecting me to follow. “Now, don’t expect much. You know, the inmates do the cooking around here. The breakfast bunch, well, they ain’t the best. The dinner cooks, well, that’s another story. They’re pretty good. We’ll get some good chow at night.”

WHAT’S WESLEY’S FIRST DAY LIKE…

Well..in the case of “Blade” I suspect that it was a mixture of celebrity, concern and disconnection.  Prison (minimum security or not) is prison and it is different.  This morning Wesley Snipes had his first prison breakfast and many eyes are on him as he begins this new journey in his life.  Perhaps we can put aside our feelings of his guilt or innocence or feelings of appropriateness of his sentence and join to wish him well…

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Anne Bruce, Best Selling Author, recommends SECOND CHANCES – Chuck Gallagher’s new book on Transforming Adversity into Opportunity

November 6, 2010

Chuck Gallagher’s book, Second Chances, offers every reader hardhitting, no-nonsense life tools that each of us can manifest into the power of choice intelligence and its many benefits. This is not another, “Here’s my story and what I’ve learned” book. It’s much more. It’s a book that says “Take what I’ve learned and apply it in your life. You will transform your destiny to a higher level of consciousness through better choices and higher purpose!” It’s a call to action that doesn’t mince words.

Chuck brilliantly demonstrates in this book that life is full of grit that can become imbedded in our soul—just like the grain of sand that embeds itself within the oyster’s shell—the grit of life, its challenges, heartbreak, and pain, also can be transformed into a beautiful pearl within us all.  Second Chances guides the reader through Chuck’s personal story of triumph to finding his or her own rare, one-of-a-kind pearl within. Chuck’s story illustrates how imprisonment of the soul can take place behind bars or outside of them. It’s a choice we can make and then change the trajectory of life when we make it.

As Chuck says so eloquently in this book, “You may make a mistake, but you are not a mistake.” Not to read Second Chances, in my opinion, would be a mistake I strongly recommend avoiding.

Anne Bruce
International speaker and bestselling author of
Discover True North: A 4-Week Approach to Ignite Your Passion
and Activate Your Potential; Be Your Own Mentor;
How to Motivate Every Employee; Speak for A Living; and more.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two of Chuck Gallagher’s new book described as inspirational and groundbreaking!

CHAPTER TWO – Excerpt

I was at a breaking point, feeling that I had no control and no value. In my current state, I was useless to my partners; in fact, I was a severe detriment. Everything my wife and I had worked for was about to vanish; only she didn’t know that. Furthermore, the career that I had worked so hard to craft was going to disintegrate in just a matter of hours. I had no control. I was powerless. The only rational action I could think of was ending my life.

Thank God for that major phobia of mine─fear of pain. The problem with suicide was that everything I thought of involved pain. I even considered jumping off the building, but the distance between the leap forward and the final impact caused me some serious worry. What would I be thinking during those few seconds? More importantly─“Good Lord, that would hurt!”

At 7:11 p.m. that evening, I grabbed the Yellow Pages and began calling clinics─anyone who I thought might help me. Frankly, I don’t recall what I was looking up. I do remember that there were no listings under “suicide”─in fact, that wasn’t a category. So I looked up physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, anything that started with a “P”. Honestly, I don’t remember who I did call─a proctologist, as far as I knew. The only thing that flooded my mind was I needed help.

“You’ve reached the office of Drs . . . Our office hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Our office is closed. But if you’ll leave your name and number, we’ll be happy to call you first thing in the morning. Have a nice day!” Somehow, when you’re thinking of ending your life, “have a nice day” just doesn’t seem appropriate. And unfortunately, that’s the message I got over and over.

Calling became an obsession. It was the one thing I could do, one action that I felt in life I had some control over. “Just one more dial,” I would say to myself as I pressed the buttons on the phone, listening to the ring, hoping for an answer.

“Dr. Benson’s office.” That was the second time that day I was stunned. After getting recording after recording, I was somewhat unprepared for the possibility that someone would answer. Yet someone did.

“I need to talk with someone. I’m from out of town,” I somehow stammered.

“Actually, our office is closed. I was just walking out the door and thought this was my wife. Give us a call in the morni . . . ”

Before he could finish his sentence, I blurted, “I’m thinking of committing suicide!”

Silence─then the voice said, “Let’s talk.”

For the life of me, I can’t recall what was said between us as I lay on that lonely hotel bed. We could have talked for two minutes, twenty minutes, or two hours. I just don’t remember. What I do recall is that this total stranger, a man who I had never met, took the time to help me see past the grand illusion I had created and uncover the real me inside.

That night was the darkest night of my soul. That call that I shared didn’t make it better. It didn’t eliminate the consequences. It didn’t remove the pain. Rather, it gave me hope, hope that if I could make poor choices that would, most certainly, bring painful consequences, I also possessed the power to make positive choices with positive results.  His comment to me still resounds in my heart today. He said, “You have made a terrible mistake, but YOU are not a mistake! The choices you make moving forward will define your life forever and provide the foundation for your children’s lives. Think carefully as you make this choice!”

When he said to me, “YOU are not a mistake,” it hit me─while the past cannot be changed, the life we are given and the choices we make moving forward are the only things that count. I felt a burden lifted. I could not change the past; all I could do was face the consequences. It was within my power to make good choices, now and in the future, that would produce a fruitful outcome. That was my destiny!

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For more information on Anne Bruce and her many books visit here!