“Do you want to kill him?”
“No!...no…. Well, maybe yes”
A conversation of forgiveness with a man whose son was just murdered.
(This post contains some explicit language in direct quotes)
Again, I find myself in a place of unknown.
Unknown feelings, unfamiliar experiences, foreign ground.
2 weeks ago, while in the South Bronx, I met a man named Felipe. Felipe was standing all alone, leaned against the metal gate of a closed up business. I approached him and leaned against the same gate. I came to find out that he had just moved back to the area after losing his job.
Great I thought, we have lots of info on job resources and training. I invited him into the front of the bus, our office area. I served him a cup of hot chocolate and started asking about his job history. Construction, restaurants, custodial, all typical jobs of the men who frequent the bus in the S. Bronx. I pulled out a job questionnaire we use to gain more information and to create more conversation so we can see what other services might also help.
Name, phone number, email, address, work history, ect. All simple questions that can lead to further conversation. Then there is a question about if the person needs childcare or is a single father - because there are resources and organizations that work for and with people fathers.
As I was asking those questions, I also asked,
“Do you have any kids, how many kids do you have?”
Usually this question is simply answered, but today was different.
“That is a hard question to answer right now…” and he got really quiet.
Seeking to understand the change in demeanor, I asked “Why so?”
Silence. He started trying to talk, then stopped. After a few times of this, it came out.
“I had 2 kids, but now I only have 1.” As the tears started to mount, he began to tell me how his son was murdered in December of 2015. His 24 year old son was a good kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. He continued to speak. I continued to listen.
His son’s murder lead to him starting to drink again, which lead to him losing his job, which lead to him losing his apartment and having to move back to a rough spot in the bronx.... All of this after he had become free from Alcohol, landed a great job, and moved out of the Bronx (all with the help of Paul and The Relief Bus just 2 years ago.)
It’s not fair. That’s all I could muster. He agreed and we cried together.
We spent nearly an hour talking, mostly me listening. I did provide him with some job resources, I prayed for him, gave him my number, and said that I would be back the next week if he wanted to talk more.
I talk with a lot of people. I hear a lot of tragedies. A lot of things hurt my heart on the regular, but ever few weeks there are the things I hear that don’t just hurt my heart, but indeed break it. This was one of those times.
This week he was waiting when we arrived. He was anxious to speak as soon as I stepped out of the bus. As soon as everything was up and running we went into the bus office.
“I saw the fucking guy that killed my son”
As I came to find out, this past week Felipe and his family filled 2 rows of seats for the arraignment where the defendants were being read the charges and putting in their pleas.
This was the first time that he had seen the man accused in person, outside of the description the news gave after seeing the surveillance video that caught the whole thing.
“He plead not guilty. That mother fucking guy actually plead not guilty.”
He elaborated that when the man said those words, the entire family jumped up and had to be surrounded by the police in the room to calm down.
The District Attorney assured the family that they have a tight case and will be seeking 25 years, Felipe said that’s not enough, because that guy will get out and he will never see his son again.
Then I asked what I was thinking, but not sure if I really wanted to know the answer.
“Do you want to kill him?”
“No!...no…. Well, maybe yes… But it’s not possible.”
As he is speaking, I can’t help but notice the alcohol on his breath and how everything is filled with anger and hate.
Do I blame him? Could I do better? As he is speaking I can’t help but think of my daughter. Even as I am writing this at night, I just went into her room to pat her back because she was crying. I love her with everything I have. What would I do? How would I respond if roles were reversed? Could I main maintain the integrity I preach?
Could I love in the way I write about?
So I ask. “How can you get to a place where you can forgive him?”
Disgust. I thought he was going to get up and walk out on the spot. How could he ask that he was saying, how could I ask that I was thinking.
But, I could clearly see what the hate, anger, and pain was doing to my friend Felipe.
It was killing him. Alcohol for breakfast. A black bag with 2 more cans in his hand for later.
Forgiveness doesn’t do that to you. Grace doesn’t do that to you.
“I can’t do that, I don’t want to, he killed my son.”
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so they can have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.
This verse is circling my head.
“You have to get back to a point of life and not death. Forgiveness brings life. Hatred brings death. It will kill you.”
“Can I pray for you to have forgiveness until you are ready to pray that for yourself?”
He processed the words coming out of my mouth. He thought about it for a few seconds and then agreed. We prayed together. I affirmed that I love him. We hugged and he went on his way.
So, that is my job for now. To pray for what Felipe can’t. To uplift my friend to the place he needs to be until he can actually get to that place.
I am continually amazed at the places and circumstances that God places me in.
Surely He could find a person more equipped and smarter than I am to help Felipe.
How can He expect me to have the right words and know the right thing to say to this person that is literally drowning in sorrow?
Please pray for me.
Please pray for Felipe.
The past month or so, every time I pray I find myself saying the words,
“Make me new. Make me like You.”
I realize this as I am typing right now that the only way for this prayer to happen is for me to have the opportunity to be like Jesus in word and action. Dang.
What circumstances have you found yourself in lately where you felt completely incompetent? Were you able to trust God with the right words or actions?
Please feel free to share if you think it might be helpful for someone.
Much love my friends.