I had an up close and personal meeting with someone affected by my actions. This guy and I had a beef dating back to elementary school. Yes, even at that age I was creating problems. We had been friends since the first grade.
All of this changed one summer, when we both got involved with gangs-/ rival gangs. He was running with the Maravillas and I was running with Choppersx12 SUR13. These two gangs have a long history of not getting along. I had no idea this change would have such a profound effect on my life. No more hanging out on the black top, no more four square, no more friendship.
As we got older, we got violent with each other to “prove” our alliance and allegiance to our gang. We fought each other any and every chance we had. On numerous occasions, we both wore the symbols of our rivalry on our bodies. I still have scars that remind me of our war.
Unfortunately, he lost the war and has been confined to a wheelchair. We sometimes find an outlet to our lifestyle; some find Christ, a woman, or a new place to start a new life. I found poetry and writing. As for him, he found Christ. When I ran into him today he was passing out flyers for a local church. The strangest feeling came over me. It wasn’t the same feeling I had when I ran into him five years ago. I felt ashamed. We stared at each other like we both saw a ghost. He said, “What’s up Clever, how are you doing?” It took me a minute to respond. I said,” I am doing well.” I didn’t know what to say to him.
He asked me if I was still active in the gang and I told him no. He said “I heard you got shot and killed.” I laughed and said “no man. I’m still alive and kicking.” He then said something to me that made me realize a lot about him and myself. He asked if I could forgive him for what he did to me. What did I need to forgive him for? I have my freedom. I have my legs; I can walk. I said of course I can and I asked him to forgive me for what I did to him and his family, especially the stress I put his parents through. He said he forgave me a long time ago and that he was happy that I was not living that lifestyle anymore.
I came home and told Jennifer (my better half) about what happened. It really left me puzzled, I felt remorseful for the first time in my life for what I did in the past. This last meeting has changed me; I haven’t felt the same since that day. I feel like this was a reminder for me not to ever fall back to the old me. There are moments when I miss my old neighborhood and I wish there was a way I could be there. Now when these feelings surge, I just remind myself of my elementary school friend who has suffered more than me and yet has found the struggle and courage to forgive.
by Rolando Ortiz