Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Back in 2019, a small group of friends and I began what started off as a ninety-day fitness challenge. We agreed that for the next ninety days, we would compete to see who could log in the most workouts, healthy meals, and pounds lost per week. Soon after beginning our challenge, we realized that we didn’t want to compete against each other, so our fitness challenge morphed into a fitness journey. Whereas we had started this endeavor competing against one another, now we were on a journey, committed to encouraging and supporting one another. That change made all the difference in the world. In the end, we all came out winners.
One thing that we all agreed to at the beginning of our journey is that our aim was not just to lose weight. That would have meant that we were just on a ninety-day diet. That’s not what we wanted. We wanted to spend the next ninety days changing the mindsets and habits that had caused us to end up where we were. We wanted to get to the root cause of our issues. A mere diet couldn’t do that. So, for the remainder of our ninety-day journey, we drew strength from our faith. We shared our challenges with one another as we came to realize that a lot our food issues were connected to our life issues. We exercised together, ate healthy meals together, and prayed for one another a LOT. And the results were amazing.
It wasn’t just about the weight loss. Yes, each of us lost varying amounts of weight. But it was about so much more than that. At the risk of sounding super sappy, the biggest change came from within, from the lessons learned and disciplines developed along the way. We learned a different way of being and doing, and that’s what led to the outward change.
Two years later, most of us who set out on that journey together are still fighting the good fight of faith. We’re still walking in those lessons we learned and new habits we developed on the journey to fitness, proving to ourselves that what we set out to accomplish was so much greater than something as temporal as a diet.
I share this because there’s a life lesson tucked in there that we could all benefit from: Change—true change—always starts from within. Until we change how we think, we will never really change and sustain what we do.
Our justice system is in need of a drastic overhaul. One only has to consider what our system was designed to do and what it actually does to come to that conclusion. Consider the following:
76% of juvenile offenders reoffend within 3 years; 84% reoffend within 5 years.
Educational and economic disparities are leading predictors of juvenile delinquency.
It costs $112,555 per year to incarcerate a juvenile but only about $9947 to educate a youth at a private school.
We see these and other numbers shift significantly when restorative justice measures are employed to address juvenile delinquency.
To pull from the life lesson I learned as my friends and I set out on our fitness journey, deep disparities and blatant injustice will continue to be our norm until we change how we think justice. Why? Because change—true change—always starts from within.
Barbara I. Nelson
Restorative Justice Program Director