The little girl said the word porch and then began sobbing loudly. After her mother comforted her, 5-year-old Kai Leigh Harriott looked up from her blue wheelchair in the hushed courtroom yesterday and faced the man who fired the stray gunshot that paralyzed her nearly three years ago.
''What you done to me was wrong," the dimpled girl with purple and yellow plastic ties in her braids said softly. ''But I still forgive him."
On a summer night in 2003, Anthony Warren of Hyde Park fired three gunshots into the air outside a three-decker in Dorchester to scare two women who lived on the first floor after an argument. One bullet severed the spine of Kai, then 3, who was sitting outside on her family's third-story porch with a sister, singing ''Down by the Bay" from the ''Barney" television show.
Yesterday, in emotionally wrenching victim-impact statements that left many spectators in tears, Kai and four members of her family told a Suffolk Superior Court judge that the shooting had changed their lives forever, but had also shown them the value of forgiveness.
''We're not victims here; we're victors," said Kai's mother, Tonya David, addressing the court.
Forgiveness, such a lonely forgotten concept in these days of suing and legal action. Without it, we live in fear of mistakes, of accidents, of ourselves. How much forgiveness would change our lives and our world. Imagine what would happen if Christians were known today for their forgiveness. The old song says it, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love...." It is the miraculous and mysterious courage of unexpected people that teaches me how to live my own discipleship to Jesus. Thank you Kai Leigh and everyone else whose stories are burned in my memory as examples of love and discipleship.