Susan Burton is a hero. What she has done with her life is extraordinary, although she would deny that. She would simply say, in her own words, that her life is just Grace Turned Outward.
Growing up in the drug-infested ghettos of south L.A., Susan Burton stayed mostly out of trouble until her 5-year-old son was hit and killed by a police van. Overcome with grief, she turned to drugs which spiraled her down to the inevitable arrest, conviction and incarceration. The next period of her life she describes simply as in jail, out of jail; in jail, out of jail — six times. When you find out that each time she was released from prison, she was dropped off by a bus in the very same area she fell into this trap, with no ID, no Social Security card, and $200 cash, what do you think happened? There is no perceivable choice except to fall back into the toxic life she was leading. But after being dropped off at that same bus stop the sixth time (one of the prison guards had even said on her way out, “See you back here soon”), she realized she had to get help, and she had to get it outside the ghetto. Somehow she found her way to a treatment center run by a foundation in Santa Monica, and there she finally got the help she needed. She got counseling to get free of her addiction; she got a safe, sober place to live; she got a job and a start on higher education — all directed and overseen by two loving suburban women she calls her “angels” who took her under their wings, vouched for her, and told her about Jesus.
But her own rehabilitation is only the first part of the story. That’s the Grace part. The rest of the story is Grace Turned Outward. Susan spent the next few years working, saving money, and getting an education. Susan had a plan: she was going to meet that bus.
When she had enough money and with some help from friends, she bought a home in Watts and readied its rooms for tenants, and then one day, when everything was set, she met that bus and brought home the women she knew from her own time in jail. Soon she was able to arrange for partnerships that helped provide these women with drug counseling, legal help, education, jobs and job training — in short: everything she had received through the foundation in Santa Monica.
Soon she ran out of money, but someone helped her form into a non-profit corporation and A New Way of Life was born, and she hasn’t looked back since.
She now has five homes in Los Angeles and has helped over a thousand women break the cycle and make a successful transition back into society. And she’s still meeting that bus.
I tell Susan’s story because of Grace Turned Outward. A remarkable thing happened to her. She was touched in a miraculous way by God’s grace and could not keep it inside.
How have you experienced the miracle of God’s grace? How can you turn that outward to others? Your story may not be as dramatic as Susan’s but it’s the same thing. And who knows what could happen?