“It’s not what happens to you; it’s what you do with it.” – Gregory Bright
Fifty-two year old Gregory Bright spent twenty-seven and a half years in Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for a murder he didn’t commit. Sharon, the key witness, was a heroin addict and suffered from hallucinations. After a decades-long fight to exonerate himself, Bright was released from prion in 2003.
Gregory Bright spent more time behind bars than in the free world, but while incarcerated other inmates, in particular death row inmates, sought his advice. Says Bright, “The advice I gave other men was the advice I needed. The only way I could get counseling was by helping others with their problems.” He went on to say, “You are the key to your own change.”
Bright’s words rang in my ear as I read them, and then it struck me. During the 2004 Steamtown Marathon a young runner came up behind me and said, “There is still a lot of pain that lie ahead.” I turned, looked him in the eye, and said, “Think only positive thoughts, man. Never, ever, let a negative thought formulate in your mind during the course of a marathon.” The following narrative from Twenty-four Years to Boston reminded me of Bright’s words:
I needed to get some positive energy flowing and shared the words for my own benefit as well as his. The distance is too long and too grueling, and once the seed of negativity is sown, there is risk it will find fertile soil and germinate, then it doesn’t matter how many miles remain, you are doomed.
Ironically, after Bright’s release Sharon was living in a project across from his sister. She apologized for her testimony that sent him away for twenty-seven and a half years. Gregory told her, “I know that feeling: to be sorry about something you can’t change… It’s not what happens to you; it’s what you do with it.”
Gregory Bright’s story is the subject of the one-man stage play, Never Fight A Shark In Water: The Wrongful Conviction of Gregory Bright.