If I could figure out how to be in two places at once, I'd bottle the magic solution and become a wealthy woman, I suppose.
I had this thought recently when I was scheduled to go the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma's annual banquet. That same evening, a national One Church, One Child conference was held in Oklahoma City featuring Antwone Fisher, a man who grew up in the foster care system and saw his remarkable experiences come to life on the big screen in the 2002 feature film that bore his name.
What to do? I went to both. Some anxiety was involved, but I survived and am the better for it.
The Interfaith Alliance's annual gathering included people committed to bringing greater understanding and awareness of different faith groups in our community. It was nice to see people, whose beliefs could keep them divided, talking earnestly together about issues of the day or laughing at each other's jokes as they broke bread together.
Chief among them was the Rev. Jeff Hamilton, the alliance's president. He received the group's Community Service Award for his efforts on behalf of the organization and the many people that benefit from the group's work in the community.
A couple who have dedicated their lives to serving others, Larry and Masie Bross, received the alliance's Harley Venters Humanitarian Award. Larry Bross is director of faith-based City Care, an organization that runs the Pershing Center Transitional Supportive Housing Program and the day shelter at the Homeless Alliance's WestTown Homeless Resource Center. His wife, Masie, recently retired as longtime director of Whiz Kids, a City Care program that pairs inner-city churches and suburban churches to tutor inner-city students.
Meanwhile, at the One Church, One Child Conference, Fisher shared about his life as a child growing up in the foster care system in Cleveland, Ohio, after being born in a women's prison.
He now is a successful author, screenwriter and producer, but it didn't take long for the personable Fisher, speaking frankly, to take his audience back to the days when he was a young boy enduring horrible abuse.
Fisher spoke words of encouragement to the crowd that included clergy and churchgoers interested in the One Church, One Child mission as a minority adoption recruitment program. He said each person could encourage families to foster or adopt a child after hearing his story, which emphasized the need for good people to reach out to youths in foster care.
However, I thought the most poignant portion of his speech was when he spoke about forgiveness. He said he has found that “forgiveness is a process.”
Fisher said he felt nothing but compassion for his mother (who died last year), who did not attempt to retrieve him after she was released from prison. He said he also forgave his foster parents for years of abuse.
“I would not have the testimony I have if I had not had all those things happen to me,” he said. “I would not have a chance to explain how I have come to a place of forgiveness. I am free.”