A letter to Bill Pelke by Gabriel Gonzales, a death row inmate in Texas
Happy New Year to you, your family, and your extended Journey of Hope family.
When I first heard of the “Journey of Hope” I was blown away at the very powerful message you all are bringing to the world despite being victims of murderous violence. You said it best Bill: “The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity.” Yes it is.
We live in a world where being quick to judge and ruling with an iron fist has become the social norm, and understanding love and compassion have become foreign concepts that are considered week and even insane. And to me, you and everyone from the Journey of Hope are a bright beacon of light in this darkness for being victims who lost loved ones to violence and still having so much love and compassion in your hearts even for those who inflicted the violence and all who are connected to the situation on either side of the situation. Compassion, love, and understanding are the preservers of life and the manifestors of the justice. Not revenge and more killing.
My name is Gabriel Gonzalez. I’m a death row prisoner who is innocent! However, I learned the truth of the message you all bring while on DR. My childhood was full of emotional, physical, and severe sexual abuse at the hands of my father, and emotional neglect by my mother. In an attempt to save myself I left home at 12 and was forced to survive on my own long before I was completely prepared (and on top of that severely damaged from all the abuse and neglect).
I lived in the ghetto, very poor, with no good male role models. The gang members and drug dealers were considered the paradigm for manhood. I joined a gang at 12 and sold drugs to survive. The gang was my way of trying to find love, security, a place to belong (not because I wanted to be a criminal). I was too young to legally work and on the run from the police for being a run away. So I sold drugs to have money to eat.
Once I arrived on death row confined to a cell 23 hours a day, I was forced to sit with the pain of my childhood abuse. A friend at Ellis Unit (when we still had group recreation) taught me how to read. I came across psychology books that helped me understand why I was so deeply hurt by my abuser, and how sick my abuser was. That along with the spiritual awareness I came into gave me the understanding I needed that my abuser was truly sick. And that gave me the compassion to forgive him. When I forgave him my hate and anger went away. It was in that moment that I discovered that we all who have been hurt by others can only heal through forgiveness which is a derivative of compassion. We can only destroy ourselves and others by holding onto the hate and wanting to exact and perpetuate more pain. It’s only reinstating the code of justice by more pain – and that is not justice.
In my own process of seeking answers and healing I discovered how powerful compassion is. Once I understood how sick my father was I found the compassion not only to forgive him but wishing I could help him heal. That’s powerful. And I came to discover that the preservers of life, humanity and justice are understanding, love and compassion.
While here I also discovered my passion: Wanting to work with abused and neglected children like me, and also with young gang members in hopes of helping them find healing, hope, and the understanding that just because we were victims of abuse and violence, neglect and many other indignities, does not mean we cannot sustain, overcome and live a full quality life where we can extend ourselves to our full potential, turn our wounds into wisdom and use them as a message and “Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing” to bring love and compassion to all of humanity.
Bill, thank you for existing, for the love and compassion and healing you and all at the Journey of Hope bring with your message and your effort. If ever I can do anything to help you or anyone from the Journey of Hope, Please let me and my wife Carolina know. Keep up the amazing and powerful work…
Love, Compassion, Action & Transformation…