A Moment of Grace…

untitled-It was two weeks before Thanksgiving, 2004. Victoria Ruvolo was driving her car home on the cold, rainy streets of Long Island, New York, after attending her niece’s voice recital.

Earlier that evening, six young people had broken into a Nissan and stolen a credit card with which they bought $400 worth of DVDs and video games at a nearby store plus a twenty-pound frozen turkey at a grocery store.

Victoria doesn’t remember the Nissan heading toward her on the highway, or the teenager hanging out the window. Nor does she remember the frozen turkey he threw at her car that came crashing through her windshield, knocking her unconscious and smashing every bone in her face, leaving her with significant brain damage. Nearly a month later she heard the explanation for the eight-hour surgery that attempted to reconstruct her caved-in face, the four titanium plates supporting her facial bones, the synthetic film holding her eye in place, the tracheotomy and wired jaw. She heard the explanation but couldn’t process it.

The young men were caught and all pleaded guilty except one:  Ryan Cushing, the eighteen year-old who had thrown the turkey through her windshield. In January, 2005, he entered a plea of not guilty. Had he gone to trial and been found guilty he could have been sentenced to a maximum of twenty-five years in prison. But in August, 2005, with Victoria still undergoing therapy and treatment from the accident, she and Ryan Cushing met for the first time. On August 15, the young man received a plea bargain sentence of six months in jail and five years of probation, to include psychological therapy and public service. The plea bargain had been at the request of Victoria.

When Ryan and Victoria met for the first time that day in court, she threw her arms around the sobbing youth, stroking his air, telling him she loved him and forgave him, that she wanted the best for his life. The New York Times called the scene a “moment of grace”: “Given the opportunity for retribution, Ms. Ruvolo gave and got something better: the dissipation of anger and the restoration of hope, in a gesture as cleansing as the tears washing down her damaged face, and the face of the foolish, miserable boy whose life she single-handedly restored.”

To say that that was a moment of grace is an understatement. At the very least, it was a display of “amazing grace.”

The above story here was originally written and shared by Dr. David Jeremiah

[P.S. After her story was first related to me, I actually got a hold of Victoria Ruvolo and personally kept up with her  for a few years.  She is a sweet, simple woman who worked in collections.  This incident occurred during a dark time in my life, when I was having a hard time finding and giving forgiveness. Victoria was a shining example to me of what true forgiveness is all about.  I have since heard that she was still in pain and also had run into further complications from the accident, but that she possesses the same cheerful attitude she had displayed in the beginning.    -MWP]