THE BLOG

What George Wallace Taught Me About Forgiveness

02/10/2015 05:13 pm ET | Updated Apr 11, 2015

Yep, that's me. Circa 1976. Standing over George Wallace's left shoulder. Yes, the George Wallace. The stand-in-the-door-blocking-black-students-from-enrolling-at-the-University-of-Alabama-in-1963 Governor George C. Wallace. The man who spewed hate, racism and more hate.

2015-02-09-GeorgeWallace.jpg

People ask me how I could stand there with him? Why I'm even willing to show the world this picture?

My answer is quite simple. Change.

I believe with all of my being that it is possible for people to change -- and change drastically even. How do I know that? Because I know that I, myself, have changed. And I must allow that to apply to others. If you know George Wallace's story, you know that he recanted his racist views and asked forgiveness from African-Americans. Some argue about the motivators behind his change-of-heart. Some didn't believe him. Some wouldn't believe him. Wouldn't forgive. I say, whatever starts that step toward change -- embrace it. Accept it.

I ask you: How do we move forward if we won't forgive? If we won't believe that type of change is possible?

We say we want change. We say enough is enough. We say it is time. But are we allowing the change we are demanding? If you can forgive, then you will be able to avoid creating a worldview that is rooted in stereotypes. All people of one demographic are not the same. There are good and bad people in both genders and all races. I believe, as I hope you do, that there are more good. However, if we don't keep our hearts open, we are limiting the possibilities of building the capability to connect across differences in the future.

I have a challenge for each of us.

Today, get to know someone different from you. Someone who comes from a different background. Someone who has different perspectives, different biases, different stereotypes. Listen and talk to this person (but listen more). Be curious. Don't be fearful. Yes, it will get messy. Yes, you have to be wiling to go beyond "PC." Get your questions answered. Invest the time to connect. Really connect.

If we each do this, I guarantee a change in our worldview. And if we encourage others to do this along with us, we will experience meaningful and authentic change.

We need to heal as a country -- badly. Race relations are not better -- they're worse. Accept change in others. Originate change in yourself. And let the healing begin. Not just during "Black History Month." Every month. Every day.

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.

-- Paul Boese