Chris Schumacher never thought he would murder one of his friends. But a rage came over him when drugs went missing from his home, and he committed the unthinkable. Chris led a partying lifestyle prior to being sentenced to a 16-year-to-life prison sentence in California. In prison, he reformed his life with sobriety and learning to forgive himself through his faith. Chris joined a program called The Last Mile, earned a college degree in software engineering and developed his own app. After his release in 2017, after 17 years behind bars, he joined us on stage at The Nantucket Project. Chris’s story of change, rehabilitation and improvement from the lowest points captivated us in a time where prisons and prisoners are mostly forgotten.
In 2002, Donnie Fritts was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer (ameloblastic carcinoma) and in a 12-hour surgery in 2003, doctors removed three tumors along with a good portion of his face. In the years afterwards, Donnie experienced incredible physical and emotional pain, falling into a deep depression. But his strength and that of his wife, Sharon, that forced him to arrive at a place of acceptance. Their story is one of unwavering fortitude and unrelenting love that will move you. Accepting unacceptable circumstances is difficult. Donnie and Sharon know exactly how to do it.
On our journey towards understanding the practice of forgiveness, we learned about a woman with an extraordinary story — one that lead her down a path many would never attempt. In the summer of 1973, Marietta Jaeger was camping with her family in Montana when her 7-year-old daughter disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. A grueling spiritual journey followed and Marietta came to not only forgive her daughter’s kidnapper, but pray for him. Her story leaves us in awe of her spirit — one that has allowed her to see past the rage. In this episode, The Neighborhood Project’s Kelly Corrigan attempts to understand Marietta’s process and how she was able to use forgiveness to ease some of her immense pain.
From three different states, Tom and Kelly talk to Nadia Bolz-Weber, the tattooed, opinionated Lutheran preacher featured in the neighborhood project episode 5, Black and White. In this podcast Tom, Kelly and Nadia dive into her past, and some of the decisions that Nadia believes should have ended her life by age 30. They discuss institutionalism, authority and what it means to be a sinner and saint, simultaneously. Nadia speaks the truth — that’s why people, including us, react so well to her.
In 1996 Ev Worthington’s mother was murdered. The killer was never brought to justice. About ten years later, his brother, traumatized by the scene of the crime, committed suicide. Everett, a clinical psychologist, worked through years of resentment, guilt and anger with a step-by-step system he had developed for his patients. He considers forgiveness one of the most challenging and necessary ongoing practices humans undertake.
Lulie and Gordon Gund have an incredible story. After Gordon went blind at age 30 due to a genetic disease called retinitis pigmentosa, he, alongside his wife, Lulie, has spent his life working to find a cure. In this podcast, Kelly and Tom discuss the tnp Ideafilm The Illumination, which celebrates the Gunds’ relationship and story, the challenges they have faced and how the struggles have strengthened their marriage. Also included is part of an interview that Kelly conducted with Lulie and Gordon in 2017, which is a humorous and inspiring conversation that gives insight into how they met, their family, their miraculous foundation, Gordon’s accomplished career and day-to-day life.
Kelly visited TNP’s headquarters in Connecticut and sat down with Aaron Neu, our director of photography and the editor of TNP’s award-winning idea film, The Illumination. The film, which is featured in Episode 3 of The Neighborhood Project, tells the inspiring story of philanthropist Gordon Gund who went blind in 1970 at age 30 of a genetic disease called retinitis pigmentosa. A year later, Gordon and his wife Lulie, among others, founded the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Their more than 45-year journey to find a cure for blindness can only be described as a act of love. Aaron refers to the challenges of creating a visual story of the Gunds’ highs and lows—an experience that had an indelible impact on his own life.
Wayne White, star of The Neighborhood Project’s Episode One, never had a plan B. He wanted to be an artist. Specifically, a puppeteer. “If I had a plan B, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now, I probably would have fallen back on it.” Driven by passion, he continued his pursuit by putting on small puppet shows on the streets on NYC and in small house parties. Wayne’s big break, however, came when he was hired to do set design for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Here, Tom and Kelly meet with Wayne in LA to discuss life’s paths and art.