Saturday Story Time: We All Need A Hero

“Mom do you have a hero?” my son asked me one day. Not really I said, how ’bout you? He nodded his head and named a famous football player. Why is he you hero? “I don’t know, I guess because he is really good at what he does and he makes lots of money.” I smiled at the honesty and innocence. Did I have a hero, no. I got to thinking about that and it made me sad, I honestly could not come up with one person I would want to emulate to the hero status. A few years ago that changed.

It is a hard read. It is brutally honest, and a true story. It does not gloss things over or make them pretty with a happily ever after ending. It is a bit like the movie Hotel Rwanda in its telling of the horrible holocaust, but the images you imagine in your head are ten times as bad as the ones in the movie. The book is “Left To Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza. I can not tell you why I read it, I hate books and movies like this that portray true events in very accessible forms. They haunt my dreams and the images stay with me a very, very long time. I have been to Africa, I know what true poverty looks like. I have seen the faces of children who have been abused by a war they did not start and have no control over its ending. I have adopted two beautiful boys from Liberia who at ages four and five had lived through more horror than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. Why then do I need to read or watch a movie about it?

I read “Left To Tell” and for the first time in my life, I had a hero. Immaculee lived through the Rwandan holocaust and wrote a book about her survival, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. “In 1994, Rwandan native Ilibagiza was 22 years old and home from college to spend Easter with her devout Catholic family when the death of Rwanda’s Hutu president sparked a three-month slaughter of nearly one million ethnic Tutsis. She survived by hiding in a Hutu pastor’s tiny bathroom with seven other starving women for 91 cramped terrifying days. This searing firsthand account of Ilibagiza’s experience cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members, is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires.” writes Publishers Weekly on the back cover of this book.

It is a fascinating story of a woman who lives through the most horrible atrocities one human being can commit to another and still finds her way to not only believe in God,
but to forgive the perpetrators for what they are doing. Now I am all for forgiveness. I am all about grace, but you mess with my family, and this Mama Bear has very big claws. Immaculee is in a tiny bathroom, she is scared, hungry, tired, and she knows her mom, dad, and brother have been killed by people she grew up with. They are hunting for her, she can hear them outside the house calling her name. She is 22 and does not know if she will live or die. It is in this moment, in this place, in the midst of this unbearable pain, that she finds a path in her heart to forgive the very people that are screaming for her death. I sometimes find it hard to forgive the guy who cut me off on the freeway.

I am a good person, I try to live my life in a way that communicates love and grace and I want to leave the world a better place than when I arrived. I read this book and it transformed my understanding of what true forgiveness is. Ilibagiza was able to find a way to see God and trust her knowledge of His goodness enough that while her enemies were seeking her death she could still forgive them. I could maybe wrap my head around it, if, after she was safe, and justice was served that she could maybe find a way to forgive, but while it was actually happening, while she is still in hiding? Now that is a faith I can aspire to, that is a woman worthy of being my hero.

“Mom do you have a hero?” my son asked me. Yes, yes I do, let me tell you about her.

As a post script to this story I had the honor of meeting my hero when she was speaking in Salem, Oregon. She is a humble, beautiful woman who continue’s to tell her story to bring redemption and forgiveness to a world that showed very little to her. Love radiates from her core and she truly lives out the faith that she was Left To Tell.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Kari,
We read this book in our book club a few years ago….you wrote a beautiful synopsis of the core of the book: forgiveness. It was a tough read, one of the toughest….but it is possible to come out on the other side of tragedy stronger and with tons of grace. She truly is a hero! Theresa

Comment by Anonymous


First I always want to thank you for reading my blog. I have such respect for you and to know you read my writing is a huge bolster to my ego. Jessie just told me she is doing her internal assessment for her IB history on the USA’s role or lack of a role in the Rwandan Holocaust. I think she might have been impacted my this book as well.

Comment by Kari

Sounds very interesting. I might have to check it out.

Comment by myliteraryleanings

I think you would find it time well spent! Thanks for commenting and reading my blog! have a great day!

Comment by Kari

Comment here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: