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  • Writer's pictureCj Harris

Can we Choose a Different Way

The incidents that occurred last week had me reflect on the tragic event that took place five years ago in Charleston.

We dealt with the horrific death of 9 church members, who were tragically killed while attending bible study one evening.

I remember I couldn't stop thinking about the tragedy and felt like I needed to do my small part to show support to the victims' families.

I knew that donating was simply not enough. I felt inclined to do something more than giving money --

I needed to go to Charleston.

I was ready to stand on the front line in solidarity for the victims and their families in a peaceful protest.

When I arrived in Charleston, I planned to research where funerals were taking place. I wanted to ensure I attended as many of them as I could while I was in town. I decided to stop at a local restaurant that was recommended to me by a gentleman on the plane, to conduct my research. I wanted to ask locals for ideas on how I could leverage my time.

I did not want to waste any time.

I remember meeting this beautiful woman (picture above) who felt inspired about my "mission" assignment for the weekend, and was kind enough to cover my meal :)

I remember later stopping for ice cream (it was "SO HOT"), and the owner gave me two big scoops of ice cream on the house! The community opened its doors to love on those that were impacted by the hateful crime committed by Dylan Roof. There were no looting or riots taking place: just tears, hugs, and open doors of love from many members of the Charleston community.

While researching, I noticed that the family of one of the nine victims, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, a mother of four, listed their home address, suggesting that the public was welcome to visit, so I took a chance and drove 30 miles to the family home.

My initial intent was to drop off a sympathy card and share my condolences; however, when I pulled up, the home was completely dark, with no one in sight.

I thought to myself, "Let me get out of here, what am I doing..." So I began to pull off.

However, something inside of me pushed me to pull back into the driveway, and at the very least, put the card on their front porch. As I pulled back into the driveway, two men came outside and asked me if I needed any help. I explained that I had come in from Chicago because of how the tragedy impacted me and that I didn't personally know their family, but wanted to leave a card to show that my thoughts and prayers were with them.

They invited me inside their home. I felt comfortable enough, so I decided to take the chance.

When I entered their home, flowers and plants were everywhere. There was a beautiful demonstration of love that was being given to this family.

The gentlemen kindly introduced me to DePayne's mother.

In speaking with Mrs. Middleton, I asked her and the family, "How do you forgive him for what he did?

How do you?"

She said to me, "Baby…its called forgiveness. Our beloved, DePayne's legacy, will live on and be remembered."

This caused me to quickly embrace Mrs. Middleton and cry. All I could think about was that this woman was preparing to bury her daughter the next day, and the family seemed to be in positive spirits.

I left their home motivated and encouraged.

Oh, and oddly enough, I was the only person from the public that showed up to the family gathering at the house.

I was so glad I decided to take that trip to their home, and I was SO glad that I trusted my gut and took that spontaneous trip to Charleston.

Two years later, I received a card in the mail.

When the family said, "You're truly our angel on earth," it reminded me that when God sends you on assignment, be obedient and go.

Sometimes, people need to know that God is still present in the midst of pain, and I thank God that he chose me to be on that particular assignment.

In conclusion, what really resonated with me from my experience in visiting Charleston during that time was;

● The amazing spirit of forgiveness demonstrated by the relatives of the slain victims and the members of the Emmanuel AME church,

● The outpouring of love and support that was displayed by residents from the Charleston community and across the country;

● The national symbol of healing and commitment to social justice in bringing down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol.

That experience has forever lived in my heart.

Especially during times such as these.

Can we choose a different way?

We can DO more to SHOW those that NEED us the most... that we will BE there for them WHEN they need us the most.

No time like the present to be on assignment.

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