Forgiveness In El Salvador

April 10, 2012
I remember the day well. It was shortly before the sun rose, the dew was on the agave plant, and roses that were growing everywhere. You could hear, from far away, the sound of approaching footsteps. I could not make out what noise that was. It was such a beautiful morning. You could hear the birds in the trees, the chickens in the backyard, the sound of the wind that was coming from the coast not too far away, and the sound of the neighbor’s dog barking.
All of the sudden, the harmony of the scenery was ruined. Noise suddenly came from screaming people who were riding on horses. The birds flew away, replaced by noise. It happened suddenly without warning. People clothed in military suits stormed our home; they screamed at me, pushed me out of the way, and hit my mother, who was trying to protect me. These soldiers liked to hurt, you could it see into their eyes. My father was beaten worse than one could possibly imagine, and he was lying in pain, screaming and crying on the floor. The soldiers had no shame; they abused my mother in front of everyone while they laughed at me.
One of the military men had a big scar on his face and a red beard, which was unusual for El Salvadorian men. The man approached; I thought later on that he must have been one of the leaders. He violently pulled my father and my older brother out of the house and took them away. Since that day, my mother and I never saw my father and brother again.

Years passed by, and violence in the street was growing. There was no happiness in our society anymore, there was no one you could trust, there was no one that didn’t get beaten up by our own police. The police were scared of everyone; they did not know who was a rebel and who was not.

I was now close to being an adult. Several years ago when I was younger, I found a way to escape being drafted from the military. I had been working since I was eight years old. I got up everyday at 5:30am and came home around 8:00pm. At noon I had a hour break when I went to the market to get something to eat. Just when I arrived, sweaty from hard work, and hungry like I had not eaten for years, I saw a familiar face. I was standing there in shock. I couldn’t move when the man walked through the market; it looked like he moved up to me.

There was no doubt, it was HIM. His red beard, filled with sweat, looked like cotton candy that someone had left to rot in the sun. His whole forehead had big pimples. It was obvious from the lines in his face that he had experienced some hard times in his life. The man limped, pulling his left leg dragging behind him. It wasn’t just that his look was unwelcoming, it was that everybody sensed no one wanted anything to do with him due to his past. You could smell the blood from his hands, you could feel the hot barrel of his gun, and you could taste the fear of the people around him when they saw him. However, you could see his broken and black teeth, the missing thumb on his left hand, and all the scars that were on his face and on his legs. He looked truly sad and embittered. The man’s red eyes were filled with tears. He seemed older than his 35 years.

I was so angry; I wanted to see him bleeding for taking my father and brother. I wanted to see how he would like the pain that I had lived with my whole life. He stopped in front of me, and looked at me, like a human who had lost his soul, like a child who was abused and could never be happy again, like the most insecure man. I got ready to beat him to death. I had imagined for years how I would kill the people that destroyed my childhood, if I ever met them. It was so weird. He was the abuser, he was the guy who destroyed my family, when I was too young and helpless to stop the violence.

In shock, I stood and watched him there. I started to cry, just like him. I realized at that moment that I could not hit him. I knew at that moment that I needed to forgive him. My whole life, I had wanted to harm the people who had harmed myself and my family. But I’d never thought I would or even could forgive the murderers of my family. We stood there motionless for many minutes, oblivious to the others around us. I forgave the man for the crimes he committed against me, my family, my village, and my country El Salvador.

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