Love thy neighbor

I'm always yammering on about how much I wish the mainstream media would cover stories dealing with the day-to-day lives of religious adherents. The problem with these stories, of course, is that it can be difficult to find stories that are newsy or terribly exciting. But I thought this CBS News story about how one Christian lives was an excellent example of the genre -- and managed to be dramatic and interesting as well.

Correspondent Steve Hartman reports on what happened when a young Minnesota man was murdered and his killer sent to prison. Here's how it begins:

In a small apartment building in North Minneapolis - a 59-year-old teacher's aid sings praise to God for no seemingly apparent reason. Indeed, if anyone was to have issues with the Lord, it would be Mary Johnson.

See, her son was shot to death in 1993. He was her only child and only 20-years-old. The killer was a 16-year-old named Oshea Israel.

Israel went to prison and served 17 years before being released. And now he lives next door to her:

How a convicted murder ended-up living a door jamb away from his victim's mother is a story, not of horrible misfortune, as you might expect - but of remarkable mercy.

A few years ago Mary asked if she could meet Oshea at Minnesota's Stillwater state prison. As a devout Christian, she felt compelled to see if there was some way, if somehow, she could forgive her son's killer.

"I believe the first thing she said to me was, 'Look, you don't know me. I don't know you. Let's just start with right now,'" Oshea says. "And I was befuddled myself."

They began meeting regularly, she forgave him, and when he got out, she helped him land a place in her building.

The story is very brief but gives Mary space to discuss her motivation and for both to discuss how forgiveness works in a situation such as this:

"Unforgiveness is like cancer," Mary says. "It will eat you from the inside out. It's not about that other person, me forgiving him does not diminish what he's done. Yes, he murdered my son - but the forgiveness is for me. It's for me."

For Oshea, it hasn't been that easy. "I haven't totally forgiven myself yet, I'm learning to forgive myself. And I'm still growing toward trying to forgive myself."

I'd still like a bit more mention of just the basic church teachings on the matter, but this is a very nice vignette of a couple of Christians living their faith in Minnesota. The simple headline, "Love thy neighbor: Son's killer moves next door" works well, too.

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