Back in the fall an email came through about a Teen Summit at Yale’s Peabody Museum focusing on social justice and celebrating Martin Luther King Day. I love when opportunities arise that tie in perfectly to what we are studying. I signed both girls up, as well as their friend, and planned to add this to our Civil Rights half credit.
About 100 teens gathered together in a small auditorium on Sunday, January 17th where they were welcomes and encouraged to talk and interact through a multicultural ice breaker in which they had to find other teens who met certain criteria like, can speak more than one language, has lived in another country, knows sign language, etc. The girls mingled and collected signatures and enjoyed this activity.
The main speaker for this event was Hashim Garrett, with the organization Breaking the Cycle, Breaking the Cycle of Violence Through Forgiveness. This presentation gave me chills as he described what went through his mind as a 15 year old child laying in a pool of his own blood abandoned by his friends who played a role in his attempted assignation, wondering if he was literally left to die alone. I teared up as he spoke of a white EMS worked who transported him and a Jewish female doctor who saved him through a many month hospitalization but also through intervention with his parents in finding a safe home to accommodate him through his extensive recovery. He spoke of laying in bed hatred filling his heart that almost stopped beating and the desire for revenge consuming his soul.
Hashim spoke his opinion that crowds can gather and march and protest in the spirit and legacy of Mr. King, but our culture seems to have forgotten one key element, the forgiveness. He spoke of his anger and also of others who have been involved in tragedies like mass shooting, or who have been the children of abusive parents, or the victims of random acts of violence and the one thing they have in common was that they could not live until they learned to forgive. The act, the physical act and conscious choice of forgiveness set them free. Its not always easy and at times it is a daily practice but it is so necessary.
Truthfully the concept of forgiveness has eluded me. I wondered how parents can forgive their children’s killers, how spouses can overcome anger when their life partner was taken from them by a drunk driver or how students can forgive their peers who torment them mercilessly. A book was given away at this summit, Why Forgive, by Johann Christoph Arnold. This book is filled with personal accounts of forgiveness and now I have a much better understanding that forgiveness does not just wash over you magically erasing the pain and hurt, but it is a conscious decision to let go of the pain and hurt so that the living can live. I highly recommend it. I read it in little doses every day. I think it is more powerful that way rather than reading it in one sitting.
Bravo to The Peabody for organizing this and thank you to Mr. Garrett who affected me more than he will ever know.
On a side note, there was a teen art contest and Grace enlarged her photo of The Edward Pettus Bridge from our trip to Selma and entered it. She placed top 10.