A few days ago, while with a patient, I was reminded of one of my all-time favorite stories of redemption and forgiveness that I first read in Oregon’s most widely circulated newspaper, The Oregonian. I was so inspired and moved by the story that I told it many times as a high school religious studies morality and social justice teacher and elsewhere. I have never been able to tell the story without getting emotional. It will warm your heart, and brighten your day during this holiday and almost winter season:
One day, a mom and dad received the absolutely devastating and life-changing news that their 18-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver. The drunk driver was subsequently sentenced to about 3-4 years in prison. The sentenced man, from the time of the accident to sentencing, appeared to be genuinely remorseful and sorrowful for the life he had taken through his negligence.
It also turned out that the man was the only parent and sole custodian for his 5-year-old daughter, who had terminal cancer. The man knew his jail time was just, but, given the circumstances of his terminally ill child, he asked the judge if he could serve the jail time after his daughter died since she had nobody else. The mom and dad said they were absolutely opposed to him being given any consideration. After all, they said, we lost our child to his senseless act, why should we have any compassion for this man who killed our son!
Then one day, they were driving down the interstate, and it came to them, “we are people of faith, we don’t believe in revenge. We believe in compassion and not revenge. This is the time to demonstrate our beliefs when things are tough, not just when things are easy.” They knew that what they had told the judge, previously, about denying the man’s request, was not what God wanted. They said to each other,”why would we want this man to have to go through the hell we did?”
So they went back to the judge and asked that the man be granted his wishes to serve his time after his daughter passes away. The judge granted their wish. The man was visibly shaken, and broke down in tears, and said that he had never experienced such compassion, mercy and forgiveness and would forever be affected!
Months later the child did indeed die from cancer, and the man then served his time in jail as prescribed by law.