Crossroads on a Path to Forgiveness

February 28, 1994

Wisdom says that most of us will come upon at least one crossroads in life. For Dorothy Moore -- Dottie to her friends -- the crossroads came in threes.

The first was nearly 20 years ago, when her 19-year-old son was beaten to death outside the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center. Consumed by grief, she had nothing left but rage for the man who killed her son. She sat in the courtroom during his trial and found herself at a second crossroads, when she realized that her son's assailant also had a mother and father, grieving over what had happened.

"It brought some tears to my eyes," she said. "All of us want the best for our kids."

The third crossroads was an epiphany. Last April, she visited the Maryland House of Corrections in Jessup and was struck by the hordes of young black men incarcerated there. "You've got to do something," she told herself. And she did.

Last week, Howard County government, social service and religious leaders unveiled a comprehensive mentoring program for at-risk black males between the ages of 18 and 25. In its first year, the program will serve 120 men, most of whom will be referred by the courts. Good role models, of course, will be supplied, but the men will also get training, jobs and leadership skills.

In addition to help from 20 local churches and three black fraternities, it is fitting that the county's Community Action Council, a non-profit agency that serves low-income residents, will also be involved. Fitting because Ms. Moore directs the council and the mentoring program is her brainchild. To be sure, the idea of mentoring young black males is not new. Similar efforts have been mounted elsewhere, often in large urban areas. Mentoring programs have also been launched in some Howard schools.

Still, Ms. Moore's effort is unique in several ways. It targets older men. Its comprehensive approach goes beyond other self-esteem building. And it matches mentoring with job training, in the hope of replacing incarceration with liberation.

Certainly, Ms. Moore deserves thanks. Somehow, however, accolades alone seem shallow for someone who has suffered so much. So, let it be noted that, at a crossroads, Dottie Moore extended a hand to men similar to the man who killed her son and traveled a path to forgiveness.

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