I can’t seem to find a way to contact you directly, so I’m relying upon social media to see that this letter finds its way to you. I hope you do not think this crass or impersonal. I am hoping that the openness of the forum helps to contribute to raising the awareness that you are hoping for.
First, let me introduce myself, #Mynameis Naomi. I am a nurse, a mother and occasional writer. I write about nursing mainly, but also about the connections that we make as human beings and the beauty that I see in the world.
A few mornings ago I was travelling from my home in Leicestershire all the way to Stetchford. As a student nurse I grew so fond of Birmingham, it’s accent and the people that live there; that I happily travel 30 miles each way to work here. That morning my commute was not treating me well. I sighed as I remained stationary for what seemed like hours, consoled only with the fact that I had managed to French braid my hair whilst sat in stationary traffic. When I switched on the radio to BBC WM 95.6, I heard them announce your interview and waited patiently to hear your story.
Before I go any further Debbie, I would like to offer my most heart felt condolences on the loss of your son Alex. He sounds like such a lovely young man, you clearly did such a fantastic job as a mother, as from your description of him he was ambitious, loving and focused on a positive future with the girl that he loved. You did that, well done. After the interview I read further on the story surrounding his murder, cold clinical, fact based news stories that told me nothing of the young man that had lived and everything about the tragic events surrounding his death. When I listened to you though, I heard through the story that you told a small snap shot of who he was. Thank you for sharing so intimately your story.
The reason that I’m writing to you though Debbie is to applaud you, not only for that interview but for the admiration I have for how you are dealing with the death of your son. I was astounded by your bravery, dignity and compassion. Following the conviction of the boy who killed your son, you told us how you had found his mother. How you consoled her and told her how sorry you were for her loss. How you connected as human beings who were victims of the most tragic circumstances. There are many who could not have done this, but you’ve recognised beyond the grief and suffering that this poor woman needed you to do that. You recognised that hate is not the answer, that our ability to treat each other with compassion is hopefully the beginning of helping to stop further tragedies.
As you talked about the beauty that you saw in the world, it moved me to tears. As you spoke of the joy you still experience with your family and when you watch the Robin’s at the bottom of your garden, I felt deeply that you will make the difference that you want to following Alex’s death. You seemed unsure how though? On reflection I have some thoughts here, I hope you don’t mind me telling you them.
Debbie, your son was the young man that he was because of a number of things, your parenting, his self worth and the value that he saw in others. These key factors allowed him to begin to build a life. I think that these things are what the world needs to focus on. Because young men who lack self worth and fail to recognise that they are important, but no more so than anyone else, seem to be at the heart of knife crime. You said yourself, we simply can not make knives not accessible. The focus needs to be on the eyes that look upon them and the intent with which they are used.
Nursing in the not so affluent areas of Birmingham, I am sad that I frequently encounter the lack self worth amongst the young men that live here. Young men that may not have had the opportunities that you managed to give Alex. But like yourself, I also see the beauty in the world. I see the hard working, tenacity of people with enormous hearts…again, its why I make the commute to this wonderful community. I love this place. It’s full of gems and worth the daily agony of the M6.
So, as you said you were unsure where to go with your campaign, maybe this is a point for consideration. I am sure you do not need advice from perfect strangers. But you strike me as a kind compassionate and wonderful human being, so I thought I would let you know the impact that you’ve had on me.
I will remember your story and the woman who despite her grief told those listening to “look at the world with bright eyes” , especially when I see Robins (that really struck a chord). You have been a remarkable dose of perspective, so thank you.
Love and light Debbie
For Debbie Leonard, who’s son Alex Leonard was taken on July 3rd 2017, age 22