I recently learned about Transom.org through This American Life. If you like TAL, you might enjoy listening to the Transom podcast, which produced an amazing (and relatively brief) interview with Hector Black, an elderly organic farmer, whose adopted daughter was killed by a crack-addicted burglar. Black describes this terrible incident and the ensuing relationship he developed with the perpetrator, Ivan Simpson, including publicly forgiving him. At Simpson’s trial, Black delivered a written statement. It all reminds me of the man who forgave the “Green River Killer.” Here are some highlights from the interview:
I was saying how much we loved Patricia, how much she meant to us, and how wounded we were by what had happened. And I said, ‘I don’t know if I’ve forgiven you, Ivan Simpson, but I don’t hate you. I hate with all my soul what you did to my daughter. And then somebody turned me around to face him to say the last thing I had written. And I was looking at him, in his eyes, and said, ‘I wished for all of us who had been so wounded by this crime, I wish that we might find God’s peace. And I wish that also for you, Ivan Simpson.’ And then tears were streaming down his cheeks. It was the first time I looked into his eyes, and it was like a soul in hell. …
He was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. He’s going to die in jail. There’s no way he’d ever get out. So he could have said, ‘To hell with all of you … My life is over. I’m going to die in a damn jail … But he didn’t. He went up to the microphone, and twice, with the tears streaming down his cheeks … he said, ‘I’m so sorry for the pain I’ve caused’ … And I thought, you know, he didn’t need to do that … It’s as though something had happened to him, something had reached him.
Black goes on to describe the relationship he has fostered with Simpsons in the years since, meeting his family, learning about his abusive upbringing, and exchanging letters with him in prison. It is all very touching yet troubling. Here is a final thought from Black on the theological implications of his forgiveness:
In a way I knew I had to forgive because … I don’t know how many times I’ve said the Lord’s Prayer. You know? ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive.’ Well, that means forgive. I mean, that really means forgive. It was realizing that I had no idea what my life would have been like if I had been in his shoes … For me, if you forgive somebody, … it is really like you care about them … I guess that’s one of the totally weird things … that I should care about the man that murdered Trish. God, it just seems so strange … We all need to be forgiven, Lord knows.
You can listen to the audio interview below, and find several other interviews with Black online like it if you search for Hector Black.
Photo credits: Transom.org and the forgiveness project