Lori Bradley is a graduate student working on her the Master’s Degree in Professional Writing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She holds graduate degrees in art and art education and teaches in the Art Education Department at UMD. She maintains a studio in New Bedford (http://www.hatchstreetstudios.com) where she creates art that embodies a sense of place. She loves dogs.
Michael Mountain, founder of the renowned Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, understands the value of a positive story. The success of his organization is, in part, due to the positive stories he publishes about rescued animals. Mountain swears he will never get bogged down in the draining negativity and jaded cynicism often overwhelming to animal rescue volunteers. People don’t want to hear the horror stories – the dead end tale. People want and need redemption stories.
A great story about redemption and rescue is Prison Dogs, a program at Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, KS in which prisoners train and rehabilitate abused “death row” dogs with behavior problems and adopt them out as pets and service dogs. Participating in the animal rescue and redemption process can improve the lives of prisoners – relieving guilt and depression, leading to a sense of atonement and hope.
Each rescued animal becomes a hero – embarking on a journey of redemption. Prisoners can connect and identify with the animal as protagonist taking a journey of learning and readjustment.
Reading literature and identifying intensely with a character undertaking a heroic journey can have a similar impact on lives. A great heroic journey story is a gift from writer to reader. Different stories are more compelling at different stages in life – but the archetypal trip is the same – the resistance to change, the eventual push, finding a mentor or guide through difficult times, the fall into the depths of oblivion and a sudden awareness that signals the way up and out, and finally, the return to a new normal – with new, special knowledge leading to a better life.