Powerful lessons for me today on forgiveness.
First, I had a long phone conversation with Sam Sachs of the No Hate Zone. Sam is a man who is dedicating his life to building bridges of peace to bring people together to settle differences peacefully.
Sam, with the support of No Ho’s Hawaiian Restaurant on Northeast Fremont, has been hosting dinners for years, so that members of the community can break bread with and come to know better some members of the Portland Police Bureau. He has recently and most particularly hosted a dinner with Black members of the bureau, who shared their stories of trying to bring justice and equity to the work they do as police officers, how they are trying to change a system from within that has been so unfair and violent to people of color.
The current climate of terrible police violence, with savage attacks on non-violent protesters by both local and federal police has, in my opinion, savaged the community trust that Sam has been trying so hard to build. But I understand and appreciate him and his efforts to bring healing and peace to a community that has suffered so much violence in this fundamentally racist society.
My second lesson came from the late John Lewis. John Baptiste, of the Steven Colbert show, interviewed the congressman before he passed. And he heard a remarkable story. We all remember the terrible pictures of a young Lewis being beaten by a policeman on the Pettus Bridge. Well, he went on to tell how as a congressman, many years later, that same policeman brought his son to visit with Lewis in Washington DC. He asked John to forgive him for what he had done. And he and his son both cried. Then Lewis cried and he reached out to the man and he hugged him and said: “I forgive you!” And John Lewis went on to speak on the power of forgiveness, the power of love, that is so much more powerful than hate, and how we all need to respond more with love.
John Baptiste said that as he reflects on this interview, he realizes that John Lewis was giving him, giving us, an invitation to be a better person.
Jesus asked us to love our enemies, to pray for those who despitefully use us.
The power of love also transformed Nelson Mandela, and transformed him, while imprisoned, into the leader of his country, South Africa, so desperately needed. At a restaurant one time, as president, he sat with a group, and he realized that seated nearby was the same guard who used to torment and mistreat him when he was in prison. But instead of showing wrath to this man, who looked so uncomfortable in his presence, he extended a hand of friendship.
Hate divides. Friendship heals. Love unites.
May we live through this time of crisis and regain our capacity to forgive, our capacity to love.