Sarah Tatterson’s tale of
chasing down a bike thief made it onto Good Morning America the day after her
graduation from the school. The experience was challenging for Sarah and
brought to life many of the societal and cultural issues that she grappled with
on a daily basis in the MA in Relationship & Pastoral Therapy program. Sarah
took the time to write a reflection for us about the experience and the themes
that were raised throughout the process.
“I chased down a bike thief last week, which unexpectedly launched me
into my 15 minutes of fame, complete with a blog posting and a blip on the
evening news. Now grateful for the dimming limelight, I find myself wrestling
with the various questions this experience has percolated. A recent graduate of
Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry’s Master of Arts in Relationship & Pastoral Therapy program means I spend an awful lot of time
analyzing and reflecting on human behavior. We therapists (good ones, anyway)
probably spend equal hours analyzing ourselves as we do others, so it is not
surprising that I am still peeling this onion.
All of us have been victims at some point. It’s
impossible to live on this planet and not experience human depravity, your own
and that of others. Admittedly, it feels much more comfortable talking about
these issues with individuals in a cozy office stocked with Kleenex than
pursuing them down a main West Seattle street screaming for police assistance.
My anger and unwillingness to be victimized (and I use that word lightly here -
it was just a bike, after all) smacked up against some genuine curiosity about
the man that had just tried to steal from me. As I follow him through our
neighborhood, I know well enough that his story is far deeper than his choice
to break the law. I do not subscribe to the collective 'scourge of the earth'
mentality that our society perpetuates in regards to criminals. I’ve seen way
too much of human resilience to so easily disregard people with such arrogance.
At the same time, this man was breaking the law, violating my sense of safety
and taking what was not his. And, I have a sneaking suspicion; this is not his
first round up.
Our justice system tends to be punitive and the
likelihood of this man’s rehabilitation and reconciliation with himself and
society is something I question. But given the fact that, despite my best
efforts, I could not get him to talk about his feelings while being chased into
a cop car, he went to jail.
An un-ignorable component of justice is equity. The
ridiculousness of a white, upper-middle class, educated woman chasing down a
likely poor, disenfranchised, minority male angered me as much, if not more,
than him trying to steal my husband’s bike.
The stereotype lives on in my own back alley apparently. To be clear, I
am not taking personal responsibility for where this man finds himself in life.
But I am aware that both he and I live and breathe within cultural and societal
structures that probably benefit me more than him.
Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers. We can’t
force repentance upon others but we can choose to wrestle with the concept of
true justice. God would have him reconciled to himself, to his community and to
his creator. I hope and still pray that he will find a different way to live
despite the inequities in our society. And I am a willing participant of that
Links to media posts of the story:
Photo: Sarah Tatterson, MARPT (left) & Joanna Benson, MARPT (right), also a 2013 Alum
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