Her son was murdered in 1993. Today, she’s helping his killer rebuild his life.
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#WhoWeAre

In February 1993, Mary Johnson was at work when she got the horrible news: Her son, Laramiun, had been murdered.

He'd been at a party when a fight broke out, and he wound up dead.

The killer? A 16-year-old boy named Oshea Israel.


At the trial, Mary felt only rage. "In court, I viewed Oshea as an animal," she told The Forgiveness Project.

"The root of bitterness ran deep, anger had set in, and I hated everyone. I remained like this for years, driving many people away."

But one day nearly 12 years later, she read something that made her see her anger in a new way.

It's been a long, difficult journey, but today Mary and Oshea have grown quite close. Photo by Brian Morgan, used with permission.

"Tell me the name of the son you love so,
That I may share with your grief and your woe."

So goes the poem "Two Mothers" about a conversation between the mothers of Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot, sharing in their grief over losing their sons, all the while not knowing who the other was.

"It was such a healing poem all about the commonality of pain, and it showed me my destiny," Mary said.

She decided then that it wasn't enough to tell herself she had forgiven Oshea. It wasn't enough to try to block out the memories and never think of him again. No, to forgive Oshea — really forgive him — she'd have to embrace him with love. Help him get his life together.

It was the only way to get her own life back.

"Forgiveness isn't forgetting," she said in a phone interview. "People need to learn that forgiveness is for them, not the person that hurt them."

So she went to the prison to meet Oshea face to face for the first time since the trial.

It wasn't easy. And to this day, Mary says many people still don't understand her capacity to embrace her son's murderer. But what followed was an inspiring story of healing and forgiveness of the highest order.

Listen to Mary and Oshea talk about their unlikely bond in this inspiring video:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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