Transforming Tragedy

My parents are school teachers. Both taught in elementary schools while I was growing up. My father later became the principal of an elementary school, retiring in May, and my mother is currently a school librarian. My parents have dedicated their lives to the nurture and education of children–a noble but challenging task. When I was home in Dyersburg for Thanksgiving, I was watching the evening news and saw a story about another teacher whose lesson is not limited to reading, writing, or arithmetic but also include a powerful lesson in responding to violence.

Betty Lewing is a teacher in Lufkin, Texas–a state with a very high incarceration and execution rate, not known for its progressive responses to violent crime. Seven years ago, Betty’s daughter was kidnapped and raped. Obviously, Betty and her family were devastated. Betty needed a way to understand what had happened, and in her search for answers, began working in the prison. She was amazed to discover how many of the inmates were unable to read. Betty made a choice. She decided to respond to her personal tragedy, not by lashing out, but by teaching young people to read.

To date, Betty Lewing has taught 600 teenagers who were struggling to read the skills that they need to succeed. Perhaps even more importantly, Betty provides these youth, many from troubled homes, with a caring and consistent presence. Her students know that she is only a phone call away.

Betty Lufkin is an example of an ordinary person who made a choice–a choice to take a horrible tragedy and transform it into something healing, not only for herself but for untold numbers of people. Who knows how many lives have been changed, how many prison sentences have been avoided, because of Betty’s choice.

Click here to learn more about Betty’s story

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