On January 22, 2013, the day after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Immaculate Conception High School, in Montclair held an assembly on “Forgiveness” and the guest speaker was Mr. Hashim Garrett from the organization, Breaking the Cycle – Non-Violent Conflict Resolution Through Forgiveness.
Garrett was shot as a teenager and is now paralyzed from the waist down as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. Over the years, forgiveness has become the central theme in his life. He became determined not to carry the burden of hate and anger with him and has forgiven his assailant. Garrett now is a motivational speaker who visits schools and organizations and advocates conflict resolution through forgiveness.
Garrett says that “faith helped him stay alive.” He imparted the following advice and wisdom to the students of Immaculate Conception High School, “It takes a lot of courage to forgive…you will have more of an impact on the world by preaching non-violence.” The students were captivated by his message of resilience and spirituality. Garrett brought up the rash of school shootings and made clear that “it only takes a second to take something down…” By that he meant that destruction and violence can occur in a matter of minutes but success and completion of goals take much longer. He added, “If you want to be happy in this world, money will not make you happy; you need to forgive people.” Smiling, students understood Garrett when he said, “When you realize your mom and dad are not perfect, you will need to forgive them.”
“Hurt people hurt people,” Garrett asked the students to repeat after him; this statement seemed to stand out the most for students. They understood that crimes are done by people that are hurting themselves. Even though it is difficult to comprehend forgiving such heinous acts as school shooting or urban violence, Garrett said, “When you forgive someone, it is not about them – it is for you.” The inspirational speaker left students with some things to think about. He emphasized that “God created you for a purpose.” He also said that he wanted students to remember two things: 1) Learn to forgive and 2) Wake up every day and be grateful.
Immaculate Conception High School students and faculty gave Garrett a standing ovation at the end of his talk. As students were leaving the assembly, they received two books on the topic donated by the authors. The first book was Why Forgive?, by Johann Christoph Arnold, a collection of stories about people who have found peace by practicing forgiveness and the second was she said yes, a memoir by Misty Bernall, the mother of Cassie Bernall, a victim of the Columbine High School shooting. Both books were of great interest to students after listening intently to Mr. Garrett. Immaculate Conception High School students were very lucky to have received such wise words from Mr. Hashim Garrett and certainly will remember his message.