Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 30, 2006
'Startling, luminous' action opens onlookers' hearts
Brutalized woman forgives her attacker – conditionally
Light One Candle
It was one of those news stories that seemed made to order for the New York tabloids: young people out joy-riding; one of them throws a frozen turkey from the window and it strikes an oncoming car.
Funny? Hardly. The turkey broke the windshield of the car it struck and then landed full force in the face of the driver, a 44-year-old Long Island woman named Victoria Ruvolo. She was injured so badly that had she been alone, she probably would have died.
But her passenger was able to get medical attention for her quickly and she pulled through - but still needed to have her face rebuilt, and to endure months of painful therapy.
The story was painful, too, even though the tabloids couldn't resist working the word "turkey" into the headline over each story about the long-running case. The original incident took place in November 2004, and the story played out for nearly a year.
But when it finally came to an end last October, it did so in a way that was startlingly spiritual. That was because the victim, Ms. Ruvolo, provided all those following the story with a lesson in compassion they are not likely to forget.
The admitted assailant was Ryan Cushing, 19. Last August he and Ruvolo met face-to-face for the first time, when, in Suffolk County Court, he pleaded guilty to assault. He might have been sentenced to as much as 25 years in prison, but as a New York Times story put it, Ruvolo was there "not for retribution, but for his redemption."
She had previously asked prosecutors about his background and made it clear that she wanted him to have a lenient sentence. "God gave me a second chance at life," she would later explain to the Times, "and I passed it on."
When Cushing first spoke to her after entering his plea, he began to sob, and as she embraced him, he said over and over "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." Even veteran court observers choked back tears as she said in return.
"It's OK, it's OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be."
Reading reports of what had taken place led many to believe that Ruvolo had completely forgiven Cushing and his companions, an understanding she insisted on correcting.
At the young man's sentencing (to six months in jail and five years' probation), she spoke directly to him when she said, "I have not absolved you. I expect you to take the consequences of your actions."
But where others might look for revenge, Ruvolo managed to find compassion.
"I sincerely hope you have learned from this awful experience, Ryan," she said.
"There is no room for vengeance in my life. I know you are remorseful."
A New York Times editorial called her actions "startling and luminous," and said she had brought about "the dissipation of anger and the restoration of hope."
THE GIFT OF COMPASSION
What a powerful lesson Victoria Ruvolo was able to teach in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy, one that could have been even worse. She said that by demonstrating compassion, she hoped to encourage her assailant to seek an honourable life.
The lesson was one intended for Ryan Cushing alone. But somehow it resounded in the hearts of many others as well.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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