She put her arms around the gangbanger who took her son’s life

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Upper left: Melanie. Upper right: her son who was murdered.

By Michael Ashcraft –

Melanie Washington hugged the young man who killed her son.

“It’s more important to love and forgive than to hold on to the pain and the hurt,” Melanie says on a Long Beach Post video. “I found myself putting my arm around him. I didn’t feel a murderer that killed my son. I felt my son.”

Today Melanie Washington, 67, based in Long Beach, CA, is helping troubled youth make it out of a destructive culture. She herself came out of a childhood that was “pure hell,” she says.

At age 8, she was molested by her stepfather. When “Fred” got on top of her sister Mary, Melanie told her mother, who kicked out the abuser.

Melanie gives a conference at Soledad Prison

He left but showed up the next day with a gun.

“No, Daddy, no,” Mary pleaded.

He shot and killed Mom. He tried to kill Melanie, but the gun jammed.

Shocked and overcome by grief, Melanie, who didn’t know where to turn, blamed herself for her mother’s death.

“I was the one who told my mother that he was doing this,” Melanie explains. “She put him out, and then he came back and killed her the day after Thanksgiving. I went through a life of never forgiving myself for that. I kept telling my mother, I’m sorry.”

For her outstanding service into the community, then-President George Bush gave Melanie an award.

Melanie graduated from high school and, falling in love with a handsome young man, married him. After the second month of marriage, he began to beat her.

Again, Melanie blamed herself.

“I was just wondering, is this because I told my mom?” she confesses. “Is this what my punishment is, to get beat up by the man that I love?”

The beatings continued through both pregnancies.

“So, I decided one day to get my kids out of here,” she says. With three months savings, she got an apartment for herself and her kids.

They were safe, “but I was pretty much messed up in my mind,” she says. “I was thinking about all the mistakes that I had done. It seemed like all I had done was messed up people’s lives.”

Loaded with self-imposed guilt, she turned to drugs.

“I liked the angel dust because it made me go other places,” she says. “I didn’t want to deal with people anymore. In my hurt and in my pain, I OD’ed myself. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I said, enough is enough.”

During the overdose, she heard a voice.

“Melanie, Melanie, my name is Jesus,” he said. “If you follow me, I’ll show you the way.”

Melanie didn’t know if she was dead. But she responded, “Okay.”

“The next morning, I was alive!” she says. By surrendering her heart to Jesus as her Savior and deciding to follow Him as her Lord, she was born from above by the Spirit.

Her life began to change. She understood that blaming herself was wrong.

“I started saying, I have to forgive all those people that wronged me,” she remembers. “It was hard. At first, I was going to give up on Christ instead of forgiving because ‘I’m not forgiving nobody.’”

The breakthrough came when she realized that unforgiveness, instead of hurting the wrong-doer, was only hurting herself.

“I had to raise those boys, so I came off all the drugs,” she says.

As she straightened up her life, she helped other kids in the neighborhood go to Sunday school and follow Jesus.

When her son turned 19, he moved to Oceanside to be near his older brother. Unfortunately he got involved with the wrong crowd. Mom tried to pull her son away from the circle of a Blood gang member to no avail.

The phone call came at 3:00 a.m.

“We have your son here, ma’am,” the man said. “He’s been killed.”

Immediately, Melanie went into denial: “I thought no way. I fought God, Jesus and anything else. ‘I’m the one that’s messed up people’s lives. Take me.’”

After going through a time of battling with God, Melanie fell on her face.

“I asked God to forgive me,” she says. “How stupid could I be? Jesus died on the cross for me, and I really went through everything and spiritually I was changed. The Holy Spirit just changed me.”

From that day onward, she’s been taking care of people and working with children – some of the hardest cases in the county that “people don’t even want to touch,” she says.

Secularly, Melanie worked for Boeing for 37 years and wound up a supplies manager. Her non-profit, Mentoring: a Touch from Above, does one-on-one mentoring for foster kids. Melanie speaks in schools, in California Youth Authority, anywhere she can find an audience with hurting.

“Whatever I can put my hand to, I’m going to try to give a piece of love to somebody,” she says.

The Blood gang member, the one Melanie encouraged her son to distance himself from, was the same one who took his life. At the trial, Melanie was given the chance to speak to him.

“Donte, my son loved you. He loved you very much,” she said. “I just pray that you find peace. You’ll be in my prayers.”

Her living son counseled Melanie to NOT forgive: “If I showed you the picture of what your son looked like and everything, you would never ever forgive him.”

Instead of holding on to bitterness, Melanie visited the murderer of her son in prison.

“When Donte came out, he was real tall, and he hugged me,” she says. “I found myself putting my arm around him. I didn’t feel a murderer who killed my son. I felt my son. I called him my son from that day on.”

She addressed Donte: “You may have taken my son’s life, but God has given me yours.”

Melanie traveled to Washington D.C. with 99 others to request the Supreme Court lighten his life sentence and give Donte the chance to be released and live outside like a changed man.

Today, Melanie ministers in the prisons with kids. She is aghast at the horror stories. She brings hope to hopeless kids.

“What I see in the prison system is miraculous,” she says. “They’re truly making it. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m so blessed to be here.

“It was forgiving Donte that made me realize that I had to forgive me.”

Michael Ashcraft is a financial professional in Long Beach.

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