Given that this is the season of holiday parties, uplifting religious services and jammed stores, I may be in danger of coming off like the Grinch-or worse. But there’s a counterpoint to the holidays I’d like to talk about.
Thinking Of The “Emmanuel Nine”
In an era where mass shootings have become almost commonplace, I’ve found myself thinking particularly of the “Emmanuel Nine,” the Charleston pastor and congregants of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shot dead in June by a twisted white-power racist.
I’m disturbed by any deranged gunman with an agenda who opens fire, but this one feels much more personal and thought-provoking. Let me explain.
Time Magazine did an excellent cover story last month on the months-later aftermath of the shooting. In addition to recounting how the survivors and families have struggled to go on, the article explored some very fundamental questions related to forgiveness, such as: who has the power to forgive, who benefits more from the act; the one who forgives or the forgiven and whether it’s truly possible to “forgive and forget.”
Struggling With Forgiveness
I’ve struggled with forgiveness myself and it’s been much on my mind as of late. A lot of us have, I know. It’s easy to mull over old slights and such.
I think the best approach in the case of a truly heinous wrong is to forgive the act while telling the malefactor of the pain they’ve caused and to then top that off with an admonition to change. And frankly, I flunk that test a good percentage of the time. What’s your approach? Feedback would be welcome.
We saw that play out in a Charleston courtroom less than 48 hours after the last gunshots reverberated. It was truly wrenching and amazing at the same time.
True And Admirable Qualities
The second touchstone is that the victims and their families remind me of the people of color in my life. They are and were southerners in the finest sense of the word.
I’m referring to a sense of pride in place, a closeness of family and knowledge of its roots, an open, welcoming heart and the desire to serve. They’re not saints of course, but I’ve seen wonderful blessings that have flown from those values during my 15 years in Atlanta.
I’m lucky to have such friends and the world is a better place because of them and the Emmanuel souls, who graciously welcomed a disturbed youngster with a desire for racial war into a bible study and paid for it with their lives.
I can’t imagine the pain the survivors and families are going through, this first Christmas without their loved ones.
The third is I’ve spent time in Charleston. What a lovely, gracious city it is. And that makes what happened there all the more, well, surrealistic.
Sending Good Thoughts And Prayers
Yeah, I know we‘re focused on the Jolly Old Elf, the birth of Christ and Chanukah (not to mention finding that PERFECT gift), but if you would, take a moment and send good thoughts and prayers toward Charleston.
And think about forgiveness. True forgiveness washes away many of the toxins and bitter angers of life. And we all need a good cleansing of the soul now and then.
The best to you and yours this holiday season.
Essay Copyright ©2015 Mark Woolsey. Photo courtesy of Getty Images. Photo of Mark Woolsey used with permission.