A couple years ago, I walked into a large church near my house one Sunday morning. I was feeling lonely and alone and wanted feel part of a community, if only for an hour. Sneaking in and sitting in a back pew, conspicuously dressed in jeans and a sweater, carrying a to-go cup of coffee, I watched as the mostly black congregation in their Sunday best greeted each other warmly before sitting down. The priest, a round white man – who in his sermon used the word “amen” like a comma – walked around the church saying good morning. He found me in the back and shook my hand to introduce himself, noticing that I was a new face. Before services started, he asked all of the people new to the church to stand so everyone could welcome us.
My boss said Thursday morning, thinking aloud, “How did they not notice him, didn’t he look out of place?”
“It’s a church,” I said. “Everyone is welcome in a church.”
A Politico artlce I read this morning said, “[Dylann] Roof told police that he ‘almost didn’t go through’ with the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, ‘because everyone was so nice to him.’”
Well, doesn’t that just break your heart.
It was also reported that some of the family members of the victims said to Roof at the bond hearing, “I forgive you.”
The woman who spotted his car, the police that arrested him, the community that rallied, they are all commendable in so many ways. But the families that forgave someone who did something unforgivable – they are the real heroes in this story. And that is something I certainly admire in the face of such a devastating event. Because I don’t think I could ever be so merciful. And so brave.