Hashim Garrett

Hashim Garrett in Orange, New Jersey.

Hashim Garrett grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a young boy, he changed schools and was picked on and bullied. He realized that he could avoid the torment if he befriended his tormentors, and he eventually joined a gang. There was something powerful about having others fear him for a change. He said that when he was good, nobody noticed him, but when he was bad, everybody knew his name.

At 15, Hashim was shot and paralyzed from the waist down. He says nothing but tragedy could have broken the spell of being bad. As he lay on the ground wondering if he would live or die, his eyes were opened, and he decided to change.

Today Hashim is married and has two children. He works with high school students to reduce violence. Hashim has forgiven his shooter because he realizes that the shooter was caught up in the same series of bad choices that Hashim had experienced.

“I want to love those who haven’t shown me love. I want to be kind to those who may not deserve my kindness.”

The anger was a way to cope with fear. I got tired of being afraid. I decided to hang out with the kids who picked on me. I wound up joining a gang. I was about 12 or 13 when I got involved with them.

It wasn’t like one day I became this terrible kid. It was a slow process. Sixth grade, cutting school a little bit. Seventh grade, cutting school and smoking. Eighth grade, jumping people. Ninth grade, getting arrested. By the time I was 15, I was carrying guns. I was shooting people. I didn’t want to go to school. I wanted everybody in Brooklyn to know who I was.

I enjoyed not being that scared kid anymore. I enjoyed instilling fear into people. It just morphed into wanting to hurt people and not caring if I lived or died.

My life changed on Monday, May 7, 1990, at 7:30 in the evening. My mom kept telling me, “Your friends are not good friends.” I knew they weren’t. I don’t know if they wanted me to get killed, but I know they wanted something bad to happen to me. We weren’t seeing eye-to-eye. They wanted me to get shot. They were trying to teach me a lesson.

I remember yelling, “Yo, I got shot. I got hit.” I was on the ground. I was all by myself. I remember being afraid because I couldn’t move. I couldn’t feel my legs. I hadn’t felt fear like that in my life. As soon as the bullets hit me, that tough kid vanished. My anger at the world vanished in a blink of an eye.

There’s no glory in getting paralyzed. Nobody prepared me for this part. I don’t want tough. I want to walk. I don’t want tough. I want to live. Getting shot and being paralyzed was humbling. I’m grateful for the experience. I wouldn’t be the man I am today had that not occurred.

I find my peace by giving it away, by making people feel loved, by thinking of others first. My peace comes from helping. My peace comes from giving.

We’re all imperfect. I want people to love me with my flaws, so I have to love them with their flaws.

We all struggle. My issues may be a little bit more extreme than yours, but at the end of the day, we’re all human beings. We’re all going through the same thing, drinking the same water, breathing the same air. We came into this world the same way. My problem is your problem.

I have to hold myself accountable at some point. I can’t say, “You are the reason why my situation is so dire.” Yeah, there are mechanisms in place, but I have to hold myself accountable. My success and my happiness cannot depend on how you treat me.

Why are you doing drugs? Why are you smoking? Why are you dropping out of school? Why are you killing? Why are you not being faithful? Understand the problem. Understand what needs to be addressed.

Where are the values? Where are the moral tenets that we follow? Hopefully, spirituality will be our compass and our guide. We have to treat people the way we want to be treated. We have to forgive because we want to be forgiven. We have to love because we want to be loved. It’s so basic. It’s so simple. We human beings are the ones that make it complex.

Hashim Garrett full podcast

Discussion Questions

  • How do you rationalize the thought that you should love those who haven’t shown you love or that you should be kind to those who may not deserve your kindness?
  • What has been the most humbling experience in your life? How did that experience change you?
  • How much of your sense of peace comes from loving others or helping others? How much of your sense of peace comes from others loving or helping you?
  • How much of your happiness depends on how others treat you? How is that tied to your sense of peace?
  • What values/moral tenets guide you to live the way you live and treat others in the way that you do?

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