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People Can Change - A Story of Forgiveness

In this picture, John Lewis is being presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama

In Parker Palmer's book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, he tells a story of a conversation he overheard from John Lewis. Mr. Lewis was talking about an incident at a bus station in in Rock Hill, SC, not far from where I live. He and a friend were beaten bloody with baseball bats. They did not fight back nor did they press charges.

Forty eight years later one of the perpetrators walked into Mr. Lewis' office in Washington, DC with his middle-aged son. He said "my name is Elwin Wilson. I'm one of the men who beat you in that bus station back in 1961. I want to atone for the terrible thing I did, so I've come to seek your forgiveness. Will you forgive me?"

After John Lewis described how he forgave him and told how they wept and hugged, in a "very soft voice - as if speaking to himself about the story he had just told ..." He said: "People can change . . . People can change."

Parker Palmer also has a long history of peaceful civil rights activism. He is an insightful writer who has written a book of essays about aging called On the Brink of Everything, which I just finished. A review is coming soon. I am also enjoying his blog The Growing Edge.

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