Like a lot of you, I am probably on 9/11 overload, but all of the articles and tv specials have left me thinking about the notion of forgiveness, a virtue which does not come easily for me. For years I have been able to blame this shortcoming on my ethnicity. You see, I am Irish, and we are a mean-spirited and unforgiving people. Notre Dame is, after all, the home of the “Fighting” not the “Forgiving” Irish, and have you ever heard of Irish Alzheimer’s? That’s when you forget everything except the grudge.
After watching Queen Elizabeth charm my Irish cousins a few months ago, though, I suddenly realized that now that all is forgiven in Eire, I can hardly hide behind my flawed DNA any longer.
I recently came across an interesting example of forgiveness from Rwanda, where the Tutsi and the Hutus had engaged in a terrible genocide in the mid 90’s. (By the way: Is there ever a genocide that ISN’T terrible?) Two men, one from each tribe, have taken an unusual approach to reconciliation by going to and from work each day on a bicycle built for two.
This is an eye popper of a story because one of the men had actually killed family members of the other, and yet today they ride together. That image of the two men on a bike, going forward into the future, and the image of Queen Elizabeth, being embraced by the Irish (after connecting with them by speaking perfect Irish!) puts a spring in my step.
If forgiveness can flourish in Rwanda, in Northern Ireland, and in South Africa, then I have to believe it can happen anywhere. Even with me.