Moving on from the awards discussion, which has gotten too ridiculous for my taste, here's a story that brought me to tears this morning.
In 1993, Mary Johnson's only child, Laramuin Byrd, was shot to death during a dispute at a house party in Minneapolis. His daughter, Rosalynda, now 17, was born five months later.
Byrd's killer was Marlon Green, then a 16-year-old kid juggling a chaotic life as a reputed street gang member as well as a respected conflict-resolution peer at his high school. Green, who had no previous criminal record, was convicted as an adult of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Though a woman of deep faith, Johnson long thought of her 20-year-old son's killer as a cold-blooded animal. She exchanged harsh words with his mother, Carole Green, during the trial.
But tonight, Johnson will spend Christmas Eve and share a meal with the man who killed her son — a 34-year-old man now known as Oshea Israel and whom she regards as her "spiritual son."
Johnson also befriended Carole Green, 54, who came by bus this week from her home in a Chicago suburb.
I tend to be one that grows tired of all the sappy, feel good stories that appear this time of year, but this story transcends it all.
It's really easy to condemn people for their past, suggesting that because of something they did, or the ways they thought, they are now not worthy to be called humans anymore. The "cold blooded animal" view of those who seriously harm or kill others is very common, even amongst Buddhists I know. It's not so much having such a view in response to trauma and tragedy; it's that people often hold it for situations where they weren't even directly affected. And while it's one thing to go through the kind of rage that brings up such hatred when something happens, it's quite another to justify maintaining that outlook, often for years on end.
Carol, Mary, and Oshea are role models for all of us. Their ability to transcend the past, build relationships in the present, and work towards a better tomorrow is inspiring, and a great reminder that our lives need not be condemned and trapped by the mistakes of the past.