Forgiveness and grace

Crouched in between the news stories about Charlie Sheen, state budget battles, presidential hopefuls and Dancing With The Stars was a fleeting news item about Sam and Nancy Davis.

The dangers of the drug cartels in Mexico are well known, but Mr. and Mrs. Davis were committed to their mission.  They had been working in Mexico for over thirty years.  While fleeing an illegal roadblock set up by drug dealers near San Fernando, 59-year-old Nancy Davis was shot in the head in front of her husband’s eyes.     He frantically drove 70 miles for help while being pursued by the gunmen, his bleeding wife next to him in the truck.  It was to no avail.  She was declared dead in McAllen, Texas.

You may have missed the story.  In these times where triumphs and tragedies alike are mere blips across the screen I can’t fault you for not knowing about what happened to Sam and Nancy Davis last January.    They were, after all, missionaries.  You know … those kind of crazy people.  So crazy that:

“They came as a package together and I cannot imagine one living without the other. They’re very, very in love,”

I’m sure that most of us cannot imagine having a loved one die violently, let alone be the sole witness to it. All I can see myself doing is howling a prolonged “Noooooooooooo !” and hating the people who so cavalierly dismissed someone from my life. I would plot revenge, hoping to slice their throats and stomp on their hearts.

Mr. Davis apparently thinks differently:

“I miss her terribly, but those people who killed her need to be saved. I pray for them, that God will have mercy on them and help them to know him. “

Whatever your faith may be or not be, you must admit that it takes extraordinary grace to make a statement such as that. I do not think I would be so forgiving. I would wish those that killed my loved one no such grace, only a horrible and slow death.

This got me to thinking about the nature of forgiveness and grace.  I am fortunate that a tragedy of this nature has never (yet) befallen me, but Mr. Davis’ statement can touch everyone in certain ways in their lives.  And even if you are like me and are not a “religious” person, at least in the church-going, Bible-quoting kind of way, chosing instead to hold God closely and privately in your heart, you have ways to feel forgiveness and grace as well.

For me, it comes with the homeless people who travel the streets of Philadelphia where I work.  They tear at my heart.  It is true that some are out to make a buck any way they can, and you have to be wary of the scammers.   I would say that most of them have mental issues:  I had one man grab my arm and try to kiss me once, and there is one particular old man who stands with his cup swaying on the corner in his own little world who makes me wonder:  What went wrong ?  Who failed this man ?  Where is his family ?  What choices did he make that he is here ?  Where does he sleep ?

It is true that you have to be careful.  You never know what demons are in the minds of the people on the streets.  You do not know what battle they fought the previous night while trying to keep warm or get some rest.  They may very well want to continue that battle with you.  They could have a knife or a stick and could lunge at you at any moment.  So you must take care.  For the most part, I find them to be harmless.

There are those that yell at them, telling them loudly to “Go Away !  Get out of here !” and the building superintendent regularly must chase them from the vestibules.  They make us uncomfortable and scared.  They are not like us.

Or are they ?

I look at, talk to, interact with some of the homeless in Philadelphia and all I can think is that old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.

I was somewhat of an adventurous youth and young adult.  I was in situations where I could have made the wrong choice.  My life could have gone done an entirely different path.  One bad decision and I could have ended up in the streets with the hookers and dealers, or lost my way and just been one of the sad and lonely people who have no where else to go.

Why I didn’t, I cannot say.

So while some may shun and even despise the homeless in Philadelphia, I try to muster some of Mr. Davis’ graciousness.  I look at them and see myself.  I drop some dollars, buy coffee in winter and water in summer.  It is not much, but is what I can do so I do it.  It pains my heart to see their struggle … their whole world in a knapsack on their back.

I doubt if most of us could forgive like Mr. Davis has.  The pain would be too great.  But in our everyday lives, in little ways, if we could just grab onto a tiny bit of his sentiments I think the world would be a better place.


1 Comment

Filed under Forgiveness

One response to “Forgiveness and grace

  1. Leo

    ” They are not like us. Or are they ? … [A]ll I can think is that old saying, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’.”
    True indeed . Thank you for writing this post. I was inspired and challenged .

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