It isn't often a front-page story about people I don't even know can make my eyes well up.
Journalists are human, despite what some folks suggest, but they also see and hear a lot over the course of their careers that make their skins a little thicker.
When you've given a coroner a ride in your SUV to a remote spot in the rugged Ouachita Mountains to the site where a military veteran's body hangs high from a tree, the experience toughens you up a bit.
When sheriff's deputies you've often interviewed, accompanied on a search for marijuana plants and enjoyed visiting with for years die in a helicopter crash while taking part in a manhunt, and a tough ex-FBI sheriff you're interviewing is shaken to the core by the loss, it requires emotional control to get your job done.
When you've covered a home fire in rural Arkansas in which a child's body is carried out, only as a result of a family's unintentionally misguided effort to keep their ramshackle shelter warm with a space heater in the middle of winter, it is heartbreaking. But you've still got to ask the questions and report what happened.
Sometimes we might seem callused. As with other professions, the emotions have to stay in check to do the job of delivering important information to the public.
Last week's news pages did little to engender hope. Then there was this: On Thursday, the Democrat-Gazette's front page carried one of many stories it's published since last year's fatal shooting in Dallas of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old resident who is an alumnus of Harding University in Searcy. The woman convicted of his slaying was, at the time, a police officer who while off duty shot Jean in his own apartment. She's testified she mistakenly thought she was going into her own nearby apartment unit.
The officer, 31-year-old Amber Guyger, was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison. The slaying has exacerbated tensions between authorities and those concerned it's an extension of inequities involving race and law enforcement.
Forgive me for the following extensive use of the story from The Associated Press, but what an amazing moment:
Brandt Jean, Botham's teenage brother, took a moment after the sentence was announced to speak directly to Guyger.
"If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you," he said.
Brandt Jean said he wanted for Guyger what his brother would have wanted.
"I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you," he told her. "I love you as a person, and I don't wish anything bad on you."
"Can I give her a hug, please?" Brandt Jean asked. "Please."
As soon as he got the OK, Guyger rushed to Brandt Jean and wrapped her arms around him, holding him in a long embrace. Sobbing could be heard in the courtroom.
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, a former trial judge, called Brandt Jean's embrace of Guyger "an amazing act of healing and forgiveness that is rare in today's society ... especially for many of our leaders."
In an atmosphere of sadness, tragedy, loss and anger, this 18-year-old young man showed compassion of biblical proportions. Many, I suspect, will not understand it and will consider him foolish for such kindness for the woman who killed his brother. But what an amazing expression of his faith that, while not causing these tragic events, God can be revealed in them.
A teenager in a courtroom in Texas delivered in a single act a more powerful message than a thousand sermons from the pulpit could manage.
Does it resolve all of the heartbreak pouring out of Botham Jean's death? Not at all, but it demonstrates the unbounded power of forgiveness to inspire a path toward healing.
Commentary on 10/06/2019
Print Headline: A revelation in a Texas courtroom