Although I will edit some of the journaling I did while in Pennsylvania following the shooting of the Amish chidlren at Nickel Mines school, for now I’ll begin with just an over arching thought.
With all of the school shootings we’ve had in the past, there has been a righteous anger, a wall of anger that we could all bump up against because many of the parents of the children who died, and the teachers and peers were able to voice anger themselves, which gave the rest of us unspoken permission to do so as well.
With the shooting of the Amish children, because the parents so immediately demonstrated their concern for the Roberts family and publicly spoke only of forgiveness, it left the rest of us with little room to have that same kind of anger. Instead, the largeness of the spirit of the Amish left us a great space in which we could examine our own reactions in a new light. While the Amish children are from such a peace loving culture, and because they shine with an innocence we can only wish for in our own children, Americans felt a greater sadness, and for some a greater anger. But because the Amish had no malice in their response, it created a space for all of us to allow ourselves a largeness of spirit as well.
In the three trips I made to Lancaster county following that shooting, I laid in bed, night after night, feeling almost detached from my body, floating into this larger space that was created by the lack of that wall of anger that is usually present. Each day I listened carefully to the Amish speak about their process. It isn’t, they would say, that they’ve mastered this forgiveness, but rather that it is their way. It is their direction. It is the way they will all walk on this journey, although they are all spread out along that path. Some are quite fully forgiving and some, as individuals, are still working on this. All, however, agree that forgiveness is the way. In fact, many speak almost as though forgiveness is God’s to give, and theirs is to accept and have no malice, but that it is almost as though it isn’t even theirs to forgive, it is beyond that.
They sometimes say that they don’t want the burdon of our belief that they are so good…. so able to do something that we as a culture don’t do in the same way. But I think that it isn’t that they have to be any different than they already are — they have already done all that they needed to do in order to teach us this new possibility; that because they have, for generations, lived their lives in this way of forgiveness, that is what spoke to us all in October.
Who else, by any other life, faith or culture, could have brought our national networks to have to do a lead story on forgiveness?