It was June 2013 and I was in upstate New York at Omega, which is a retreat center. I had never done anything like this before and enlisted my husband to come along for the 8 hour drive. I was going to a yoga retreat and was super excited to try something new. I was apprehensive and excited all at the same time. My 35 year old sister-in-law had recently passed from cancer and I was searching for anything that may bring peace. I was very sad about her passing and had lots of questions and no answers. Why do bad things happen to good people? Sound familiar? For those of you that believe the answer is in the search, I am sure that this resonates with you.
As I was going through the breakfast line… I noticed a man sitting by himself at a table. My heart felt heavy… as if this man was alone and needed a friend to eat with him. Possibly I was just sad and everything was appearing sad and out of proportion to me. I walked over to the table and asked if he would mind if my husband and I joined him. He smiled and said, “please do”. We began chatting and talking about the retreat center. I assumed (erroneously) that he was a “yogi” doing a relaxation weekend. The God Shot came when he introduced himself as Ronald Cotton and told me his story.
I had gone to Omega feeling sorry for myself and wondering why painful things have to happen to people. When I listened to Ron’s story my heart was overflowing with gratitude for the smallness of my problems compared to what he had endured. Yes, we all have problems… but… sometimes other folks have crosses way heavier to bear than anything we have experienced. You see, his story is no small bump in the road. Ron is a man of color and he had been picked out of a line up years earlier by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino as the man who had brutally raped her. He was innocent and yet he was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years. He was convicted and spent years in jail…. knowing that he was innocent, yet feeling totally abandoned. His new counsel was trying to work through DNA testing which was relatively new. Finally, he was found “not guilty” and released. Ron and Jennifer now have a platform that they speak about all over the country. That is what they were doing at Omega… they were the speakers!! What a gift I received in getting to meet this man and here his story of perseverance, trust, redemption and forgiveness.
I look back and realize that when I “felt” the need to sit with Ron so he would we not be eating alone, God was way ahead of me. He was putting me in that seat to allow me the privilege of meeting someone who was a true person full of humility and love. Someone that touched me at a spiritual level to show me that as Romans 8:28 states “All things work together for the good of God for those that are called unto his purpose”. It certainly does not state that all things are good… but the longer I live the more I see that all things work together for good. I left that retreat with the gift from Ron… knowing that even though I was sad about my sister-in-law… there is a reason.
The Washington Post said, “Even the most cynical reader will be impressed with Cotton’s resilience and grace.” Excellent read!! If you have an interest in reading about Ronald Cotton’s story you can purchase it here.
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