Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What I'm reading.....

"Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the handcuffs of hate." William Ward

A few weeks ago on CBS's news program, "60 Minutes," I saw a moving segment on the story of Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, two people whose lives became forever linked through a case of mistaken identity. In addition to telling their story, the segment took the viewer through the experience of identifying someone from a photograph or a line-up and demonstrated how difficult it can be to remember with accuracy the head and facial features of another person.

This subject is of particular interest to my husband, Rich, and me because Rich has long known that he has a disorder known as "Prosopagnosia," also known as facial blindness. It's the inability to recognize a face to some extent. People with this disorder have a hard time distinguishing facial features which give them the capacity to know one person from another. Rich realized many years ago that some people are easily recognizable to him if they have distinct features or a voice which has a unique characteristic. Other people, if he doesn't see and converse with them regularly, seem to fade into a vague category where they look similar to any number of people he may see in a given day. There is nothing extraordinary about them which tips him off as to their identity especially if he hasn't seen them in years. This "60 Minutes" segment displayed how easy it is for anyone, whether they have Prosopagnosia or not, to pick the wrong person.

My current read is the recently published book, "Picking Cotton," based on Ronald and Jennifer's story. I was fascinated by this segment because miraculously, Ronald and Jennifer are very good friends now even though Jennifer mistakenly picked Ronald from a line-up of possible suspects in an attempt to arrest and convict the man who raped her at the age of 22. Ronald, also 22 at the time of the crime, went to jail for eleven years based on Jennifer's mistake.

The subtitle of their book is "Our memoir of injustice and redemption." Now in their late 40's, Jennifer and Ronald, devote their time to efforts which they hope will prevent this tragic type of mistake from happening to others.

I'm only about a third of the way through the book. And I must tell you it's not the kind of light reading you may typically enjoy before bedtime. Both of these individuals experienced brutality that none of us want near us. I am reading this book because I want to read about the kind of forgiveness that allows two people to somehow not just politely reconcile, but actually become dear friends.

Forgiveness like this is rare. It requires two individuals to embrace humility. They must forego vindictiveness which seems very justified. It requires the faith to believe that somehow God has the power to redeem the most tragic of circumstances and make something good from the ashes of brokenness.

Jennifer and Ronald are two people who were handcuffed by hate and have now been set free.


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