Lockdown weighing heavily on my head. No/minimal work happening. Being a movie addict, I lapse into binge watching of Netflix & Amazon. This, to the utter disgust of my wife. And being at the receiving end of brickbats and burrs from rest of the family. All for my excess “screen time”. Yet, unapologetic, unabashed I continue. And sometimes hit a streak of sheer gold. One such good watch was Amish Grace. Directed by Gregg Champion, based on a book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. This was a hard hitting movie which challenged and clarified the esoteric concepts of Love & Hatred and of Forgiveness & Revenge. Let me tell you why I considered Amish Grace one of the most powerful stories I have seen: one that has the power to change you, if your heart is open!!
The plot is simple. Set in an Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania it showcases a typical American madness. A shooter enters the one-room Amish school in 2006 and holds hostage 10 small girls. The teacher runs out of the class to summon help; the Police arrive soon. And then Charlie Roberts (the intruder) shoots 10 girls and then turns the gun on himself. For America this is neither new nor unique. Every couple of months one hears of a random shooting spree on an academic campus or on the subway where scores of people fall prey to the mania of the shooter. What makes Charlie Roberts’ story so unique is the aftermath : how the Amish community handled the crisis.
Whenever I read about these senseless shoot-outs I always wonder what prompts such action? How can a person go through with such a dastardly act?? In this case, Charlie was trying to punish God!! He was raving against God’s injustice. Why be mad at God, you ask? Charlie & Amy have lost their daughter Lisa the very day she was born. Charlie is so angry and hurt, that he wants to purposely do evil, to spite God and His world! Armed by this logic, he goes to a local Hardware store, buys guns, goes to the unguarded Amish school with 600 rounds of ammo. He asks the boys in the school to leave, as in his mind God has taken away his daughter, & he has no quarrel with boys! He shoots 10 girls before killing himself! Of those shot, 5 died on the spot or later; while 5 others, had to undergo long hospitalization to recover.
For America, such shootouts and deaths are common. What makes the Nickel Mines story unique is that the Amish community came together to FORGIVE!!! Forgive their children’s killer!! and his family!! A most powerful scene in the movie is immediately after the news broke out, and everyone is in shock. The Amish Levi (priest) and other seniors go to the shooter’s house to meet his widow. The widow, Amy is also in a state of shock and cannot understand how a caring and loving father like Charlie could harm other children. She is distraught with grief. When she sees an Amish delegation, she fears the worst. But she faces them as she realizes “they have a right to be angry”. Imagine her total surprise when the first words she hears are , ” We are sorry for your loss” ” My loss?” Amy asks, confused in facing the community seniors who have lost small children. And the sanguine reply is, ” You lost a husband. Your children lost a father. We grieve for you as well. We harbor no anger for Charlie. We come here to tell you we forgive him” “we will not allow hatred in our hearts…we would like to offer our help. We are your neighbors”.
Arguably, the biggest pain any parent can face is the loss of his/her child. Remember Sholay,” एक बाप के लिए सबसे बड़ा बोझ है उसके बच्चे का जनाज़ा” But here are people who rise above that grief and talk forgiveness!! One of the parents puts it thus,” My daughter died this morning. It is a deep wound. But she is in Heaven with her Father now, and she is at peace”. To the younger sister, the father explains the empty bed, ” She is sleeping in a better place now, little one!”.
The mother cannot understand the Amish Levi & her own husband going to meet Amy Roberts & publicly declaring Forgiveness for Charlie. According to her, Charlie’s senseless act was unforgivable. Her plaint is, “God has shattered my heart & I will not betray my daughter by forgiving the man who murdered my daughter” She challenges her husband for his forgiving stance & screams, ” I dare to hate the man”. The father explains his forgiving stance beautifully to his younger daughter. ” This hate you have inside you, How does it make you feel? Do you feel good? Hate is a very, very harsh thing, with lots of sharp teeth, and it will eat up your whole heart and leave no room for love.“ What great advice!! So very often we are so angry with another , we hurt ourselves in the process and vitiate our own life. Buddha puts it as carrying live coals in your hand, to throw at another person. But, first you burn your own hands!! We do not understand that, “we do not have to carry all this terrible hate around in us, if we don’t want to; if we are willing to forgive”
That was the logic of the Amish in forgiving Charlie Roberts. Can we imbibe that in our lives? Or would we rather make our hearts the battleground torn between Hate & Love, between Forgiveness & Revenge? Do we not realize that to forgive makes it easier to go back to our lives? Or are some things totally unforgiveable? If my daughter is dead, have I not suffered enough damage already? To keep the Hate in my hearts actually hurts too much. Can we choose love, instead? Easy to say, but difficult to implement.
We tend to put ourselves into the role of meeting out justice for the wrongs committed. But is that our role? Can we choose love instead? In the final analysis, we all deserve forgiveness. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does not even mean a pardon. But we need to accept that if we hold on to our anger & resentment, then it is only ourselves who are being punished. If someone is purposely doing evil to you, all the more reason we should forgive. But remember,” Forgiveness comes from an open heart & it comes without conditions, or it does not come at all.” That is why, when Amy Roberts herself says I do not know how to forgive Charlie, the Amish ladies who have all lost dear daughters, go up to her and say,” We will pray with you. None of us is alone“. It requires a strong faith to take this position. Do you have it in you? That is the question the movie asks each one of us.
Faith, when everything is going our way, is not faith. It is only when things are falling apart that we have the chance to make our Faith real. Can you? Do you?
This movie challenged my deepest conceptions of justice & fairness, of love & hatred, and finally of Forgiveness & Revenge.
Explore your own thoughts and let Amish Grace take you on this deep journey.
For as ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly father will forgive you also. Mathew 6:14
May you find your own answers in your heart: vikas
Winner of the MOVIEGUIDE Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring TV Program of 2010
Grace Award for Television at the 2011 Movieguide Awards
Amish Grace broke network records in multiple demographics, with more than 4 million viewers, becoming the highest-rated and most-watched original movie in Lifetime Movie Network’s history.