Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What does it mean to forgive?

A balanced diet, less junk food and more exercise all make us healthy. But what about forgiveness? Does the acid of bitterness eat the container that holds it, until washed away by forgiveness? Research at the Mayo Clinic concludes forgiveness actually improves physical health. Here's a summary of their findings.
Experience shows forgiveness not only relieves stress, but creates hope for the future, and opportunities to do good. For example, once a week Terri Roberts spends time with a teenage Amish girl named Rosanna King, who sits in a wheelchair; eats through a tube and cannot speak. Terry bathes her, sings to her, reads her stories. Rosanna was shot in the head by Roberts' son Charlie in what we remember as the Nickel Mines Amish School Massacre. In 2006, Charlie barricaded himself inside an Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, PA. He dismissed the boys, tied up 10 girls and opened fire, killing five and wounding five others, including little Rosanna, before killing himself as police closed in. When they heard the news, Terri and her husband, retired policeman Chuck Roberts, assumed they'd have to move away. Chuck wiped so many tears he rubbed his skin raw.. "I'll never face my Amish friends again," he said over and over, until an Amish neighbor named Henry told him otherwise. "Roberts, we love you. We don't hold anything against you or your son," Henry said as he massaged Chuck's slumped shoulders. "We're a forgiving people." This extraordinary gesture gave Terri a glimmer of hope. She calls Henry her "angel in black."  A few days later, many Amish attended Charlie Roberts funeral, embracing his wife Marie, and his parents.
Funeral procession: The community was devastated by the shootings in 2006
Members of the Amish community embracer in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, near the scene of a mass shooting incident at an Amish schoolhouse in 2006

Yet forgiveness does not come easily, even for the Amish. Rosanna King's father, Christ King, said the Amish are like anyone else, with the same frailties and emotions. 'We hope that we have forgiven, but there actually are times that we struggle with that, and I have to ask myself, ''Have I really forgiven?''' King said.  'We have a lot of work to do to live up to what we are bragged up to be,' he continued. 'Everyone was talking about this forgiveness thing, and I felt that was putting a lot of weight on our shoulders to live up to that.'

Rosanna wasn't expected to survive after being shot in the head. She laughs, cries and responds to stimuli, and King said she is mentally alert. But she requires constant care.Terri Roberts' weekly visits with Rosanna force her to confront the damage her son caused. But Roberts also finds peace as she spends time with Rosanna and provides some relief to the teen's family, if only for a few hours. "None of us needs to live in the saddest part of our life 24/7," she said.

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