I realize the mere mention of the name, Bernie Madoff, stirs emotions and arouses suspicions. Be it so! As I’ve shared before, I reached out to Madoff where he is currently incarcerated. I did not expect to nor did I receive a response from him. Some things are rather predictable. His lack of a response would fall into that category.
I have struggled with a deep-seated anger with Madoff. Many people shared the same struggle; theirs is perhaps more righteous than mine. My lifelong friend Jody, of blessed memory, and his wife were victims of Madoff’s scams. They lost their personal funds and a portion of the funds they had placed in a charitable foundation. As a result of their loss, they eventually had to file bankruptcy, surrender the farm they owned and worked in Florida and face many other indignities not of their own making. Last year Jody died of an aneurysm. I would feel safe in attributing the cause to stress. He worked long and hard to pay the debts he owed and could no longer manage once the theft of their funds through Madoff’s schemes came to light.
A few months before Jody passed away a settlement was reached returning a portion of their losses. I am glad they were able to recoup some of the funds Madoff scammed them and many others out of.
For the first few years of his incarceration, Bernie Madoff has been rather quiet. From my perspective that would seem to be a good thing seeing as his believability is less-than-zero.
Recently Madoff broke his silence in a communications to NBC News. Madoff shared the pain of losing both his sons, one to cancer and one to suicide, during his incarceration. He also shared the sorrow he felt over his sons never having forgiven him. When I first read the account, I yelled “Bulls–t!” I didn’t believe him. The part of me that is supposed to judge others fairly and to give the benefit of the doubt went out the window and I wanted to say “You got what you deserved and I hope there’s more to come.” I thought on the matter for a few days and in so doing I reflected on my own life. I never once sat down and I said “I think I will become an addict, a gonif, a liar, an adulterer, a hacker, a momzer, and so on” and then went about putting those plans to into place. No, my life became a disaster based on small, barely discernible choices that led to bigger and far worse choices and consequences.
To the same extent, my process of teshuvah, my making things right, my regaining of trust and respect, and so much more has come in small, barely noticeable steps. Some people have loved me, cheered me on, believed in me, and some people not so much. Those who have given me the benefit of the doubt, the chance of restoration, and the gift of connectedness have brought much healing to my brokenness. Those who have reacted otherwise, have also strengthened me and taught me lessons of how I respond to broken people in need of kindness.
There is a sadness to me in Madoff’s story. Two sons both tainted by their father’s wrongs, both cleared of any wrongdoing, and both dead. A wife and mother left broken and alone. Too many victims to number. And Bernie Madoff, a man with so much potential, fallen so far.
What’s my point? I am not justifying Madoff’s actions or defending him. He was wrong and I do not know how he can ever make things right. It would seem he is perhaps on his way to acknowledging his wrongs, to finding what is broken and beginning the long journey back. Perhaps he deserves the loathing he receives yet he also deserves love. Loving our neighbor is not an optional mitzvah. It’s hard to do at times yet it is always the right thing to do.
From a man who has been broken and shattered and loathed and despised to a man who is loved and cared for, trusted and embraced, I understand with great clarity the treasure of compassion from others. Perhaps yours is not to deal with Madoff or others in places like him but I am sure if you look around in your life you can find that one person that needs your love and acceptance and through which you can grow and shine even brighter.
May we all be blessed to know that no matter how far one has fallen, no matter how bad it looks, they can always begin again and we can help them.