She grew up in a tiny house on a hill overlooking a beautiful lake, playing among the lush greenery as far as her eyes could see. Surrounded by friends and a large extended family; grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins her life seemed perfect.
Her parents, both teachers, were highly respected members in the community and she, along with her three brothers, excelled at school.
And then it was all gone.
The house, her parents, two of her brothers, grandparents, aunts, cousins and friends, all killed in the Rwandan genocide. While she sat hidden in complete silence in a bathroom, her world was taken from her. She entered that tiny room a vibrant 115 pound woman with a beautiful future and emerged 90 days later a 65 pound woman with no one left to comfort her, give her shelter or simply put their arms around her and share in her loss. She was completely alone.
We never know what tomorrow brings, there are no guarantees. In the beat of a heart everything can change and so it was for Immaculee. One day she was a college student home on Easter break, and the next she was being hunted to be killed.
Immaculée Ilibagiza is a living example of faith and strength beyond anything we could ever imagine. She said her choices were clear; allow her heart to be consumed by anger and resentment and spend the rest of her life slowly dying of hatred, pain and sadness or choose to forgive and love, even those who had killed her family and had taken away everything she treasured.
Seeing her again last night has strengthened what I know in my heart to be true, and is what is so important to share, the world will be saved through love and forgiveness.
She visited the Rwandan prison and was given the opportunity to look into the face of one of the men who had killed her loved ones; she was even given the option to beat him with a club if she wanted to. Instead she chose to embrace him and tell him she forgave him.
How can I hear her story of forgiveness and still hold any form of anger or resentment against anyone who has wronged me?
I believe the pain of others and the sacrifices that they make are gifts if we choose to accept them. They are pieces that we must absorb into our consciousness and use in our lives. So many times we feel their pain, empathize with their story but miss the lesson.
Immaculee lived not to just tell us all a story but to be a living example for all of us. This lesson is not complicated it is very simple; love others and forgive always.
In 1998 Immaculee immigrated to the United States to work at the United Nations. She has written two amazing books, “Left to Tell” and “Led by Faith” and toured with late Wayne Dyer telling her story of forgiveness, love and hope.
There is something for everyone to take away from her story.
It is not always easy to forgive when someone has wronged you or hurt someone you love. However, maybe your lesson is to forgive yourself which is sometimes the hardest thing we must do.
The end of her story has not yet been written for she is a young woman and will hopefully live many more years. I can predict that her story however long will always be about love the way all our stories should, always our stories must end with love.
This is the Inner Circle where we are constantly seeking ways to be more loving, and looking for ways to understand the lessons that we must learn. That we are all connected, under one sky, all of one earth.
The chain of the Inner Circle grows as we join hands and share the stories of others and open our hearts and minds to love and compassion.
You see, I joined hands with Immaculee and she placed her story into my hands and now I pass it on to you and I hope you will pass it on too!
Each hand reaching out to another until we are all connected to one another reaching across the world.