|Missy Jenkins Smith was at the Hickman County Arts, Crafts, Book and Food Fair last Saturday. A lovely young woman, Missy visited with old friends and new and sold 39 copies of her book, "I Choose to Be Happy". That's pretty good, considering she sold 62 at the Kentucky Book Fair in November, an event attended by around 5,000 people.
In the photo at left, Missy and college chum Bethany Brazzell pose during their morning of catching up with each other. Missy and Bethany met at Murray State. Bethany went into social work, Missy into counseling.
Missy Jenkins admits she is not a writer. “I don’t have the patience to sit and spend the kind of time it takes.” Although she wanted to share her story of survival after being shot at Heath High School on December 1, 1997, getting a book together was hard to fit into her busy schedule.
Then William Croyle, a writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer, saw an Associated Press story on her. He contacted her and said that he would like to help her write a book "if she would let him". Croyle, who lives in Northern Kentucky, thought Missy had a compelling story to tell.
The collaboration was by phone, but the two met on several occasions, so Croyle could “get her personality into the book” according to Missy. The book is full of interviews that flesh out the story of the Heath shooting which killed three students and injured five others. Missy was left paralyzed from the chest down.
The shooter, Michael Carneal, is currently serving time in a Kentucky prison. A recent appeal for a new trial was rejected by the Kentucky Supreme Court. One of Missy’s first acts after the shooting was to forgive Carneal for what he did to her. She says she will never forget.
Regarding forgiveness and forgetting, she says in her book, “I will never forget what Michael did to me. How can I? I’m reminded of it every day when I can’t jump out of bed in the morning, reach the cabinets in our kitchen, or stand face to face with my husband. There will never be closure. I will be living with the results of Michael’s actions for the rest of my life…I forgave him, and my future was enlarged…”
Missy is a counselor in a day treatment program for adolescents in Calloway County. “It’s a place where kids from Calloway, Murray and Graves County who have grades and behavior issues are sent.” She works with kids who have defiance issues, kids who bring weapons or drugs to school, ones that can’t follow the rules. She has fifteen students on her caseload and meets with her advisees weekly.
She spends a lot of time speaking to middle and high school students. Her themes are the importance of telling if anyone wants to bring a gun to school and about “bullying and the damage it does.”
She also talks to kids about how important their future is. “I got a second chance. I realized I had to go to college and take that second chance.” She encourages them to make the most of their time.
Missy’s story is an inspiration and her book will be a great gift for anyone, young or old, man, woman or child. Her faith shines through. She believes that God has a plan for her and the shooting was part of that plan. She doesn’t preach her faith. She lives it.
For those of you who missed her last Saturday, to buy her book, go to her website www.missyjenkins.com. or Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com or the bookstore at Murray State.