Perhaps the greatest mystery of all is the capacity of the human heart.
My father in law, Rabbi Charles Sherman invited Officer Steven McDonald, zichrono livracha to his congregation for Selichot services. Officer McDonald would share his life-altering story: He was 29 years old when he and his partner stopped to speak to three teenage boys loitering in Central Park. One of them, age 15 years old, pulled out a gun and shot McDonald three times. The incident left McDonald paralyzed from the neck down. And yet, regarding his attacker Shavod Jones, McDonald said, “I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life.” After Jones was convicted and incarcerated, Officer McDonald sent Jones a book of stamps with a note reading, “Let’s carry on a dialogue.” For McDonald, it was important to teach Jones that as a teenager, he still had more life to live and to the world, McDonald refused to carry on with a hardened heart.
Maimonides explains, “When someone that has wronged you comes to ask a favor, respond to him with a complete heart.” I’m realizing this doesn’t necessarily mean, do the favor. But perhaps it means, don’t turn the person away. Don’t live life with a closed door or closed heart.
Forgiveness isn’t synonymous with weakness. Quite the opposite: to contemplate forgiveness may open folds of our heart and a source of strength we never knew existed. Forgiveness may not always be possible but I pray keeping the heart open is something we cultivate every single day.