I don’t know Chris Williams. He lives in my state. We belong to the same church but not the same congregation so I have never met him. I’ve seen his face in the news several times this week and heard his tragic story, but beyond that, I cannot begin to say I know him or appreciate how deeply he is suffering. I only know that his story is one of those heart-wrenching ones that both draws me in and terrifies me. It makes me want to grab my children and never let go.
Chris Williams was driving with his family last Friday when their car was hit by a Jeep Cherokee driven by a 17-year old boy who police say may have been driving under the influence of alcohol. Chris Williams’ pregnant wife and two of his four children died in the accident. In his first statement to the press – within hours of the crash – Williams said he forgave the driver. He forgave this boy who destroyed his family.
In yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune, another article on the story started this way:
“To those who wonder how Chris Williams was so quick to forgive the teenager who crashed into his car Friday, killing his wife and two children, consider this: when Williams was 16, he accidentally struck and killed a 4-year old boy.”
The story goes on to tell how in 1981, Chris Williams had been driving to work when two boys darted out in front of his car. One boy survived the accident, but his 4-year old brother died three days later at the hospital. Following this accident, “People showered Williams with forgiveness and kindness.”
25 years later, Williams was willing to return the gesture when the tables were turned. He said that on Friday night, still sitting in the crushed car, he knew his wife and children were gone. “I had a decision to make because I knew it was going to be a lot of healing that I needed in my life. . . I decided to forgive then and there.”
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Chris Williams has asked the public to “extend a single act of kindness, a token of mercy or an expression of forgiveness.” Then he requested that you write down your act and send him an email so he can read them to his two surviving sons. He said: “I can think of no greater valentine that you can present to someone or that my sons and I can present to my sweetheart that that.”
I’d like to contribute to his valentine. I’m not sure yet what my act will be. But I’m going to start by posting this message. Then I’m going to turn off my computer for the rest of the day and play with my kids.
Chris Williams’ email address is williamsvalentine (at) myavant.com.