I had another post I was going to write today. But then I checked my mail.
At the end of 2010, I did what most people do and donated money to organizations I had bookmarked, with the added benefit of being able to write my checks off on my taxes. I gave to my usual recipients – I sponsored horses that needed additional funds to aid their rescue and the hopefully saved a few seals from vicious men with clubs. But there was one foundation, one story that changed my outlook on life this year, and is something I think about often: The Petit Family Foundation.
On a Sunday morning in July 2007, the Petit family consisting of father William Petit, his wife Jennifer of 22 years, 17-year-old daughter Hayley, who was captain of her high school basketball team and headed to Dartmouth College in the fall, and 11-year-old Michaela, who shyly loved to cook and who worshipped the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world,” attended church services in their Connecticut suburb on a beautiful summer day. That same day, two convicted felons who were out on parole randomly spotted Jennifer and Michaela at a neighborhood convenience store. After following them home, 44-year-old Steven Hayes and 26-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky invaded their home at 3am… beating William out of consciousness and then torturing, raping, and slaying his family, before burning the house to the ground. This is a story of unimaginable hatred and evil, just mere zipcodes away from where I sit now…in and of itself the reason people stop watching the news.
Moved by the strength of the surviving William Petit, and how he has the will to get out of bed everyday in support of his beloved family, like many others I donated to the Petit Family Foundation, a fund honoring the memories of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela by continuing the soft kindness, faith and good will that defined their lives. Today I received a note, signed from “Bill” himself thanking me for my donation and telling me that it was going to women’s scholarships. I was moved beyond words, because truthfully I had forgotten about my check, a paltry piece of rectangular blue paper that made me feel useless, small, and unable to make a dent in this man’s lifelong sadness. My check was scrap. His faith is everything.
Martin Luther King said that “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” I think this thought can be applied with every journey, every step we take, every road that seems laden with harsh brush and sharp rocks, every winding path that makes us uncertain. I can imagine that he doesn’t want to hear that everything happens for a reason, that the only way out of this pain is through it, that he will become stronger for it. Screw that. The only thing this man has left, his words, is his faith. He said he did not commit suicide because he believed he would not end up in the same place as his family. Because of his faith, this man ties his shoes everyday, eats breakfast, and picks out his tie. He relies on his faith on a whole other level that hopefully we will never comprehend. He believes in handwriting notes to everyone who donates any amount of money to his family’s foundation. He still has faith in good people. He still has faith that all is not lost.
Because what do we have if we don’t have faith…