We all face challenges, some serious and some not so serious. What matters most is the courage and tenacity with which we face those challenges, as well as the knowledge that it is never too late to make a change.
Believe me when I say Ginny Burton knows a thing or two about the topic. Local12 News recently published her incredible account of adversity and ultimate success, and it’s impressive.
According to Eric Johnson of Local12, he first met Ginny while researching the homelessness crisis that had engulfed Seattle and many other cities across the country several years before.
“I walked into a Catholic Community Services-run men’s shelter called Lazarus Day Center,” Eric wrote. “I’m not sure what I was looking for. I just wanted to talk to someone and learn something.”
“I approached a woman who worked there and introduced myself. She was tired and had long hair. She was being pulled in five directions and appeared suspicious, but she stepped outside and spoke to me for a few minutes.”
Ginny Burton was the woman in question. According to Local12, Eric ran into Ginny again two years later after calling Lazarus to see if she still worked there.
“When she called, I told her, ‘I’m not sure why, but I think I need to talk to you again…’” Eric wrote a letter.
She then started reminiscing about her life, including how she was born to a heroin addict and dealer who also had a mental disorder. Her father was sentenced to prison for armed robberies when she was only four years old.
Ginny began smoking marijuana at six due to her difficult upbringing. Her mother gave her her first taste of meth at 12, and by 14, she was puffing on crack.
She was allegedly raped when she was 16, and she attempted suicide for the first time when she was 17. Ginny began using heroin when she was 23, after giving birth to two children and leaving an abusive marriage.
“I am that person,” Ginny told Local12. “I’ve been convicted of 17 felonies. I’m the person who used to walk by you clutching your bag. I am the type of person who would attack someone in public at random. I was not a pleasant person. Everyone was both a victim and a prey.”
She went on to describe her life on the street, which consisted of her and a male accomplice robbing Mexican drug dealers at gunpoint:
“When you’re stuck on the street, you smell like feces, you haven’t showered in forever, you can’t get into a social service during working hours because you’re too busy trying to feed your addiction, and your addiction is more significant than you… and you’ve compromised your integrity numerous times, and you’re starting to be victimized by the people on the street… you’re hopeless.”
“You can’t take it anymore. You’d rather die than be alive. I spent most of my addiction wishing that someone would blow me away.”
Ginny attempted to correct her bad behavior after realizing it, but she was trapped in an unbreakable cycle of addiction. Her most recent incarceration was in 2008, when she was sentenced to 33 months.
She could keep her sobriety for six months after leaving before succumbing to relapse. She was then detained for the final time on December 5, 2012.
“I was driving a stolen truck,” she explained to Local12.
“A prolonged one. I pulled out, and a cop turned on his lights to pull me over for a broken taillight. He pursued me after I fled. I nearly collided with a tree in front of an apartment building.”
But that was not the end of the story. At the very least, it is not the end of all hope.
Ginny underwent treatment and rehabilitation after pleading for admission to the Drug Diversion Court program, where she could regain and maintain her sobriety.
Ginny began working as a social worker for the Post Prison Education Program for seven years because she was determined to atone for her mistakes in past. She got the idea and inspiration to go to school there.
“It made me realize how much time I had wasted in my life,” she said. “And I realized I was quite good at learning. something I liked.”
Ginny studied at South Seattle College before applying to the University of Washington. In 2019, she was awarded a Martin Honor Scholarship to the University of Washington.
Ginny studied political science at the age of 47 and excelled.
She shared two images to commemorate two very different times in her life. One mugshot from the King County Jail in 2005 shows her worst possible condition. The other shows her smiling while wearing her cap and gown.
“Today, I’ve let go of feeling insecure about my age, the lines on my face, my genetics, my failures, and imposter syndrome to recognize that if I’m still breathing, I can do anything I set my mind to,” she wrote. Graduating from the University of Washington Seattle’s Political Science department at 48 is a significant achievement for this former quitter.”
One cannot help but be inspired after reading this woman’s story of lowest lows and ultimate redemption.
“My story isn’t an accident,” Ginny told Eric Johnson of Local12.
“I believe it will be used for everyone else. Maybe I can play the role of the Pied Piper and help people reclaim their lives. That is what I am concerned with. Some days, I wish I could disappear here, with a garden, and open a small cafe. But in reality, I know it’s my job to keep creating hope.”
What a beautifully written story. Ginny, you inspire those who are going through a difficult time.
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