Terri Roberts told her story from the platform at the small church where I grew up. She told the story of how her son had become a perpetrator. Perpetrator—the word for a man or woman who commits a horrific crime against another person. The crime her son had committed was shooting ten Amish school girls. Five had been killed. Four recovered, but one of the younger ones remains wheelchair bound, unable to speak, and has to be fed through a feeding tube.
Terri’s son, Charlie, turned the gun on himself in the final moments, leaving Terri, her husband, her other three sons, and Charlie’s wife and three small children, left to deal with the rippling effect of his tragic actions.
Terri told us how she and her husband wept, buckets and buckets of tears. I can only imagine how the tears would worsen, as feelings of shame and guilt crept in.
Days after the shooting, the Roberts family gathered for Charlie’s funeral. It was a small turnout, I’m sure, given the circumstances. It’s hard for us, as humans, to understand how anyone would mourn the life of someone cab able of committing such a travesty.
But, as many of you know, if anyone mourns, it’s a mama.
Here’s where the story starts to transcend my understanding.
It was the Amish mamas who mourned with Terri Roberts. Almost half the people in attendance at the funeral were Amish. As the news crews from all over the world gathered, shining a spotlight of shame and pointed fingers on this family, the Amish circled the family to shield them from the media.
The Amish—the people who had lost five daughters at the hand of Terri Robert’s son—the people who had all the right to show up at that funeral with pitchforks and picket signs—showed up and FORGAVE.
And not only did they forgive, they shielded. They protected. Talk about ACTIVE forgiveness. Passive forgiveness would have been sitting at home, saying, “we forgive”, and then silently, or maybe not-so-silently, muttering something about how the media would give them what they deserved, for whatever reason the media wants to cite that they deserve it.
Mercy—not getting what we do deserve—is ACTIVE FORGIVENESS.
I don’t know if I have that in me, friends. I want to have it in me. I want to be like the Amish were to Terri. But I’m flawed and I’m human, and yes those are excuses, but if someone did something to my family—I fear I’d be the one with the pitchfork and the picket sign. Loud and angry. And I’d want to defend my actions in the name of righteous anger.
It’s a tough subject, for sure. What would you do? Can you share any thoughts about how we could all more actively forgive?