There’s a great article on the front page of our local newspaper, the Keene Sentinel, written by staff writer Phillip Bantz.

Our big news in New Hampshire (after the devastating ice storm) is the conviction of Michael Addison, a young African American, for killing a white police officer. He is the first person in our state to be given the death penalty in 50 years.

There has been much debate over the morality and efficacy of the death penalty in New Hampshire.

In addition, Addison’s character and motive have been heavily expounded upon the last few months, too. There was evidence he’d bragged about his intentions to “kill a cop” someday. The prosecution resisted any defense of his horrible environment, noting that countless people come from horrible environments, yet they don’t choose to kill. Which is true.

It is not our finest moment, in so many ways.

This article is different. It tells a story about silent evidence.

Here’s a good definition of silent evidence. Usually, silent evidence refers to a happy story of success or survival, that overlooks the stories of those who didn’t succeed or didn’t survive.

This article is about the happier story that could have been….

Eight years ago, someone did imagine a different story for Michael Addison.

Eight years ago, Addison walked into a teen counseling center: Compassionate Connections, in Manchester, NH. Steve Bernstein, a counselor there, saw a troubled youth with a drive to change his life. He saw a young man with hope and optimism.

A young man who was trying to choose differently.

Addison came to the center regularly, of his own free will for well over a year–unusual in and of itself. He became friends with Bernstein. He got his driver’s license. He pursued a GED. He sought counseling. He talked about learning a trade.

He wanted something different. He acted on that. And he showed up, consistently, choosing differently every day, for over a year.

So what happened? How did he end up a handful of years later, murdering a cop in cold blood?

Why did he walk away from everything that was working for him, and choose this?

A few sentences say it all. Bantz writes,

“Addison never left the center. The center left him. After working with Addison for about a year and a half, Bernstein said the grant money that was the lifeblood of his center dried up, and he was forced to close it’s doors.

The next time he saw his friend’s face, it was on the news….”

It’s a weird, inversed modern version of what-could-have-been from Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Maybe it’s facile to say things could have turned out differently.

But…they could have. A little more money, for a little more time, and there may have been a different story. Maybe no story….

There would have been no murder, no police officer shot in the line of duty, no devastated family left behind, no grieving community. No flurry of news stories and headlines and debate about the dark soul of a heartless monster who killed for no reason. No death penalty debate.

Just a non-story, just another electrician in Manchester, plying his trade, maybe supporting his own young family. Maybe giving back to his community, reaching out to help other youths, as others had reached out to help him, once upon a time.

Just another link in a chain of hope, and compassion, and choice. A chain now broken.

As artists, we create such chains, too.

We choose creativity. We choose passion for making beautiful things. We choose to add to the good in the world.

Yet we cannot see how our actions manifest themselves in the world. We cannot see what good they do, or what is left undone. We may never know what comes of our decision. We may never even see success, or affirmation.

It seems like a small thing, sitting here today–I cannot see the chain I create by putting something beautiful out into the world, the chain I create by making something, whether it’s evocative art, or beautiful jewelry, or a story I tell about my process. I cannot see it.

I cannot see what would happen if I stopped, either.

I believe in silent evidence. I choose to believe. That somehow, the world is perhaps, at least, a slightly better place because of what I put out there.

This story today in our local paper, about what could have been different for this killer, affirms that for me. Not confirm. Affirm.

I hope it does that for you, too.

Because something in my heart says it’s so.

We cannot see the chain.

We can only choose to believe it’s there.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

13 thoughts on “SILENT EVIDENCE”

  1. I have strong opinions about the morality of capital punishment but I live in a no capital punishment country so it’s a moot issue and not the focus here, per se.

    In my regular offline life I frequently get chided by family or friends for being a bleeding heart, optimist – they see it as being taken advantage, being made a fool of, of spending too much for no return. And invariably I ask them: And if someone had not taken my hand and given me that extra smile, nudge, guidance, even a little cash, optimism, boost… where would I be?

    I don’t consider it a guilt thing or a ‘must repay the kindness I received’ one. I consider it an investment – I want more caring, optimistic people around me and that means doing it myself too.


  2. Nicely put, Elaine, and I agree–an investment in others is an investment in ourselves, too.

    The next time you get teased for being a Pollyanna, remind them that she got EVERYTHING she wanted, exactly because she persevered in seeing–and believing–the best in everyone and everything.


  3. So, this guy couldn’t take the nice things that were given to him and use that to keep him going? Typical. It’s everyone else’s fault he committed murder. I suppose it could be true.
    People are not nice. I wish I could feel differently about it, but my experience has taught me so. I also don’t have much experience of people being very kind, at least not without an ulterior motive. Everybody wants something, and in my experience, kindness is never free.
    If there are those of you out there that have a better experience, then you’re lucky.
    Not that my life is bad, it’s great. But in dealing with people…well, I’d just rather not. So I don’t go out much because I want to avoid being hurt.
    Ugh. That sounds terrible, but there it is, it’s my truth.


  4. Oh, no, no, no, Mandi, it’s no one’s fault but his own–I agree with you there, and I hope you didn’t read my piece as me saying that.

    I hoped to show that we must act on faith when it comes to making our art–because we cannot see the good it can create in the world, nor even see the loss when we don’t.

    I am so sorry your experiences in the world have been so sad. I have been disappointed many times myself (and probably I’ve disappointed many others!) But I try to stay open, because I hope. And because that works for me.

    If you outlook works for you, I would not argue with you or presume to know better for you. If it’s NOT working, there are ways to change that.

    Best wishes,


  5. Over the years of reading your posts there have been many that have touched me for one reason or another but this one will be a standout. I chose to believe the chain is there as well…



  6. I believe too! In beauty, art, humanity, world peace and friendship. We all need support in our journey. This will standout for me to as an example of the wonderful chain of messages sent by artists in the blogging community. Thank you


  7. Thanks for this post Luann. I have always believed that we each have been given our different talents not for us – but for the whole world’ benefit. If this is not true then why else have we been given these gifts?
    I always feel so sad when someone stops sharing the special thing they have with the world.



  8. I love this.

    Act in faith that the good you put out IS DOING some good–somewhere, somewhen. Know that you may never see it with your own eyes, because stories of quiet people living quiet lives is not news. But know that the blanket you knit comforted someone, that the necklace you made inspired someone, that the blog post you wrote made someone reconsider–and choose differently.

    And keep on acting in faith.


  9. hi luann:
    i just wanted you to know that you have influenced my life. i met you at the ABI conference in Clyde, NC, in 2006. the ‘critique’ session i had with you was far from a critique; it was more of an you-can-do-this-and-make-your-place-in-this-world. thanks for your encouragement and for your blog.


  10. Spike, maybe my New Year’s word should be “faith”! I’ve been thinking about that, and that’s where this post came from. Thank you for your thoughtful words.

    Erica, you have no idea how much this means to me! Thank you so much for letting me know today. And I hope you are now doing the same thing, making your craft and making your place in the world. Good on you!


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