In April, 2011, Rick Reilly wrote a moving story about forgiveness from the life of Chris Paul, the all-star basketball player for the Charlotte Hornets. Reilly writes:
On the moonless night of November 15, 2002, five boys ran across a park, jumped a 61-year-old man, bound his wrists...and beat him with pipes until his heart stopped. All for his wallet. That man was Nathaniel Jones, the grandfather of future NBA star Chris Paul.
[Nathaniel Jones], the man everybody called "PaPa Chili," was the first black man to open a service station in North Carolina, and both Chris and his brother worked at it. PaPa Chili was known to let people run tabs when times got tough. Plenty of times, he'd hand people money out of the cash register to get by. Paul called him "my best friend."
[After learning of his grandfather's death], Paul, [who at the time was] a high school senior, was so woebegone he was literally sick. Two days later, he scored 61 points for West Forsyth High School, one for every year of PaPa Chili's life. He purposely missed a free throw at the end, then collapsed into the arms of his father in tears.
Today, [the boys who murdered PaPa Chili] are men, sitting in prisons across the state of North Carolina, some serving 14-year terms, some life... The five are about the same age as Paul, same race, same height, and from the same hometown ... Paul, now 25, said: "Those guys were 14- and 15-years-old at the time, with a lot of life ahead of them. I wish I could talk to them and tell them, 'I forgive you. Honestly.' I hate to know that they're going to be in jail for a long time. I hate it."
Rick Reilly admits that he can't fathom Paul's willingness to forgive his grandfather's killers. If strangers had murdered his grandfather, Reilly says, "I'd want them in prison 100 years after they were in the dirt."
So why did Chris Paul decide to forgive these young men? There's a clue on the NBA.com website. In 2008, fans wrote a series of questions to Chris Paul, mostly about basketball. However, one fan wrote and asked, "Hey Chris, are you a Christian?" Paul answered, "Yes. I grew up in the church and still go every Sunday if I don't have practice. It's always something that my parents instilled in me. I've grown to be pretty devout in my faith."
(Rick Reilly, "The Lessons of Nathaniel Jones," ESPN , 4-27-11. From a sermon by Monty Newton, How to Grieve Without Obsessing, 7/5/2011)
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