|WXIA reporter Doug Richards and Brooks Douglass discuss Heaven's Rain|
“There is nothing more that you can take from someone,” said Former Senator Brooks Douglass as he recounted the horrific night when two men entered his childhood home, murdered his parents, and raped his sister. Douglass’ life has since been defined by this event. The anguish it caused brought then Senator Douglass of Oklahoma, to a point of epiphany – through his experience he created an incredible act of forgiveness. After retiring from three terms as a State Senator in Oklahoma Douglass is sharing his story by having written, produced, and starred in the film Heaven’s Rain.
|Paul Root Wolpe, Shannon Hervey, Brad Siegel, Brooks Douglass, Carlton Mackey|
|Sarah Smith, Natasha Smith, Rachel Dial|
In Douglass’ description, Ake did not personify the mentally disabled person he was found to be in court. Ake told Douglass about his life in prison and his pride in passing the GED. Douglass’ first response was to congratulate him, but he held himself back. His empathetic urge to congratulate was overshadowed by a block of hatred.
Ake proceeded to say something fully unexpected, opening up an exchange that would forever alter Douglass’ life. Ake straightforwardly apologized. Douglass hesitated to respond but said that he felt, “an invisible hand pressing down on my heart.” When the meeting neared the end, Douglass got up to leave and stopped at the door. The invisible hand was holding him back and he described a feeling of being full of water that was about to burst. In that moment, he remembered words from his father’s final sermon about forgiveness and mercy. Douglass turned to Ake and forgave him.
|Carlton Mackey, Brooks Douglass, Paul Root Wolpe|
Leading up to that life-changing encounter were years of pain and reflection mixed with hard work and self-discipline. During his years in office, Douglass was appointed to a sub-committee of the appropriations committee that funded the judiciary. After looking into a few cases and thinking about his experience as a crime victim, he became frustrated by the lack of rights for crime victims. He described this frustration by saying, “what we don’t know about crime victims is that they don’t have that much control over their lives. The Judge reads a criminal their rights but does not afford the same treatment to victims.” A few of the rights that Douglass was able to get passed were the victim’s right to submit an impact statement, as well as the victim’s right to be compensated for financial losses directly related to reporting the crime. These are small steps forward, Douglass said. The important thing is to “force Judges to be accountable to the victims and to create a balance in the protection of criminals and victims alike.”
|Brooks Douglass greets Emory University students|
The turning point also led Douglass to re-discover his love for theater, which has become a creative outlet for healing. He retired from government and moved with his family to Los Angeles. Through an acting class he was encouraged to write his life story down. Three years of acting, fundraising, and filming led to the production of Heaven’s Rain. Douglass plays the role of his father and re-lived some of the most traumatic moments of his life in order to create a broad-reaching platform through which to tell the story. To describe the power of art as a form of healing and Douglass’ own transformation, he affirmed that, “it’s not my job to lay forgiveness at people’s feet. I’m still processing, and the only thing I can do is tell the story.”