What we can learn from a boy who was sold by his dad for 3 pints of beer

“My dad sold me for a jug of booze.”

Joseph Murphy, nicknamed Pyro Joe, tells the reporter.

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Image courtesy of: wireofhope.com

Joe was only six years old. That day his innocence was violated, all for a few swigs of alcohol.

He ran home naked, bleeding and scared… so his mother beat him stupid for causing a commotion. Later, she locked Joe up in a trunk at the foot of her be – the trunk was his bed.

Joe was taken off his parents a dozen times and placed into state care. Even today, state care can be a breeding ground for child abuse and neglect, so imagine how bad it was four decades ago.

Joe was abused in care in every way imaginable. What was his experience of the care?
“I liked it,” Joe said.
“I got meals, a bed to sleep in, running water and all kinds of clothes,” he added.

This was Joe Murphy’s childhood. His adulthood? Prison. After murdering a 72-year-old woman in a robbery, Joe torched her house. He was caught and sentenced to death. This was later overturned to life without parole.
That’s Joe’s life. That’s just bad luck, or is it?


After hearing Joe’s story, I couldn’t help but wonder. How would my life turn out if that was me, and if I started off like Joe?

Joe murdered an innocent lady, and that is inexcusable. The problem is, Joe is not thinking like you and me. His moral compass was smashed years ago. He was taught that abuse is part of life, never learning otherwise until he ended up in jail, told his story, and witnessed the horrified expressions and everyone who listened.

To Joe, his family was normal until he realised they weren’t. The worse part, Joe’s psyche had been permanently scarred. A child’s mind is malleable. It’s an unfinished pottery bowl in need of moulding. A few knocks can easily be smoothed out before hardening in the kiln of Adolescence.

Joe’s bowl, well, it was stepped on long ago. The intense abuse changed his emotions, his brain development, and how he ultimately sees the world. Is that an excuse to murder? Absolutely not. But what if Joe had never killed that lady? What would have happened to him?

The overwhelming statistics say that his life will be one of poverty and hardship. Not always, but very much likely.
College? Unlikely.
Financial security?
Unlikely. A stable job? Unlikely.
Adequate medical and healthcare? Unlikely.
Alcoholism? Likely.
Drug abuse? Likely.
Discrimination? Likely.

Life is decided by a coin toss. It’s 50 per cent effort and 50 per cent luck. We have the power to control our effort. But luck? That’s where it ends.

I flipped a coin, and it landed on heads. I wound up with two amazing parents, a loving home and access to everything a child needs to thrive.
Joe? He got tails.

Whenever we find success, it’s important to remember that it’s half chance.

Published in Psychology, Philosophy, Relationships, Stories
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