Friday, December 24, 2010

Transcending the Past

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.


Mumon said...

Yes, but first someone had to murder someone. Still would've been nice if they could have gotten all kumbaya and all before the deed, but I suppose better late than never.

Not that there wasn't any references to any other recent blog posts anywhere there. Nope. Not a bit.

While I am not entirely without sentimentality (I won't mention the movies that trigger that), I think sometimes the sanest reaction to holiday insanity is to enjoy playing straightman to the universe.

Have a good holiday, Nathan. All your vital organs are in the right place.

Mumon said...

I noticed that several places in the previous comment, the html like comment "<"ducking and covering">" and its inverse were mysteriously deleted by blogger.

My applogies.

Now I'll go back to ducking & covering.

MeANderi said...

Very nice Nathan... These are the real Heart stories that get overlooked, especially this time of year with our cultural need for materialism. I too don't go for the contrived platitudes and cliches of the "Holidays." :0 Christine

Nathan said...


I know that obviously, the path that lead to this story's outcome isn't too pleasant. I just think it's important to acknowledge efforts people make to overcome the worst deeds of humanity, and perhaps live more awakened lives.