18 December 2012

Chilled & Gray


New York felt just like this today.  And I think hearts across the country have felt chilled and gray, too.  Today I went to my favorite vegetable market and the sweet owners were talking in Korean.  Every few words, I heard them say "shooting" in English.  I think it's safe to say that everyone in every language is talking about it.  Everyone is feeling it.

As I've thought about this tragedy, my thoughts keep returning to one of the most inspiring stories of human love and compassion I have ever heard in my whole life.  In 2006, a milk man went into an Amish school and shot 10 Amish children.  5 of them died.  But instead of hate, the Amish were filled with love, forgiveness, compassion, and peace not only amongst themselves, but for the killer and his family.  They forgave him.  They raised money for his widow.  They attended his funeral.  They held no hate or anger in their hearts.

This story touched me greatly in the days following my first husband's departure.  I was in New York trying to hold down my life here with a mortgage to pay while my husband left the country and left his job and proceeded with divorce documents.  Yes, there were days of compassion and love that consumed me more than ever before.  But there were details of the divorce that certainly made me fight the inclination to have hatred and disgust for another human being.  I had to work to fully cleanse myself of that pain.

And so, the Amish...  I thought of them all the time.  Their tragedy and example put my trial in perspective.  And it let me see the human potential to forgive.  I took a bubble bath once, trying to find some peace, and listened to this amazing sermon about that Amish community.  I just wept and wept and wept.  I knew that if another human being could forgive as cleanly and as fully as they did, then I could, too.  I could forgive deeper than I had.  I could hold no malice.  I could have compassion even though I felt wronged.  I didn't have to wait 5 or 10 years to be free of that crippling anger.  I could move on in peace, out of honor for those around me and the future husband and children that I had hoped to have someday.

Today when we listened to some of the news about Connecticut, we heard the story of the Parker Family, who lost a daughter during the shooting and came forward with a tribute.  The father expressed no animosity and said he was not mad and offered sympathy for the family of the shooter.
"We want everybody to know that our hearts and our prayers go out to them.  This includes the family of the shooter.  I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well."  "Let it [be] something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and humble people.  Let us please keep the sentiments of love that we feel for our families, and the compassion that we feel for others– even complete strangers– and keep them with us at all times, not just in times of sorrow and tragedy.  And may we do this so that we can better all of our communities, and all of our cities and all our states, so we can make everyone, everywhere in this country feel safe."  He said, "I don't know how to get through it. The best thing I can do is to help other people."

Robbie Parker's words remind me of the Amish.  They remind me of the human potential.  They remind me that we can do hard things in our lives.  I thank God for people like them...they give us hope in humanity, they let us know what we all might be capable of, too. 

Do you think it's possible to forgive someone who did something so horrible?  Is it inconceivable to you or does it seem to early to even consider?  

(image via Adoreann)


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14 comments:

  1. Thank you Mara for yet another beautiful post

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  2. You've made me recall some oprah episode where a mother helped the convicted killer of her son when he got out of jail. Knowing he was young when he did it (gang related I think) and that after spending the time in jail its hard to get a job and a house she helped him with that and they ended up being neighbours.In her forgiveness soooo much came out of it. She saved the young mans life, they have helped others and got their message out.

    not in anyway to make light of the terrible situation and forgiveness is easy to spout when I've never been perpentrated against but its always nice to think it is a possibility.I pray I would be strong enough. (oddly you've made me think that - my father was killed in an auto accident by a drunk driver while my mum was pregnant with me - noone has ever spoke of the person and I wonder if we even know his name.. I strangely almost would like to meet him now 34 years later (if he's alive)

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    1. Oh my goodness...these stories! wow. Thanks for sharing. I'd love to hear if you meet the driver. What an unbelievable experience that would be.

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  3. I love your posts....but i wanted to share another post i found -- http://www.confettiandstripesblog.com/2012/12/love.html?m=1

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  4. This is the best blog post I have read about the shootings. Thank you.

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    1. Oh - thanks so much, you two. Goodness, that means a lot.

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  5. I love this Amish story too and that's the first thing I thought about it. There is a beautiful movie that tells the story: Amish grace. Beautiful!

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    1. OH - I'm so glad you mentioned the movie. Thank you! I have not seen this and I'm glad you reminded me that it even existed.

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  6. That is one of my favorite talks as well. A good reminder that we have more capacity to compassion and forgiveness than we think we do.

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  7. Amen to all you said above. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful acts and forces that exists.

    I was watching Katie Couric's talk show yesterday and she had a family who lost a daughter and sister in the Columbine shooting. The mother was sharing how she has actually met with one of the shooters' mother several times and felt burdened to reach out to her. I cried at the beauty of that act and how much it must have meant to the mother of one of the shooters. Such an inspiring picture of love and forgiveness, as well as selflessness.

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  8. Aren't the Amish amazing? They have such incredible values, I hate how many people have wrong ideas about them, really we could all learn something from the Amish!

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  9. I also love Elder Fausts talk. This one, is one of my personal favorite talks on Forgiveness, it's called On Measuring Flour and Forgiveness by Madison U. Sowell. If you have time listen to it because he orchestrated everything perfectly from the opening duet to the final poem. It's beautiful.

    http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=452

    The poem at the end is perfection, as are all the examples--personal and otherwise. Forgiveness is hard, but rewarding and ultimately, absolutely necessary. Forgiving the past is one thing, but for me what I struggle with the most is forgiving ongoing, current behavior with someone who continues to hurt, manipulate, and even lie again and again. It's almost like you have to forgive in the future, or store up a winter's supply of forgiveness to have at the ready. I haven't figured that one out yet.

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  10. Thanks for this post. I attend church in Newtown so this has hit too close to home. My neighbor also lost an adult relative. As I was speaking with my neighbor's wife about the Parkers forgiveness, she said their faith must be so strong to be able to forgive. As I've thought about that comment I realize that it was their faith, but so much more than that: their knowledge of the gospel plan, their compassion, their love for God's children in general and their good hearts.

    I liked what Alissa said in the Katie Couric interview. She has no room for anger.

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