In 2020, as the country again finds itself mired in all-too-familiar racial turmoil, America remembers the heartbreaking Charleston church shooting from five years ago.
On June 17, 2015, a white supremacist walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., listened as parishioners prayed, then opened fire. He killed nine and injured another. One of the nine who perished was the mother of former minor league baseball player Chris Singleton, who was only 18 at the time.
At such a young age and only days after his mother’s horrific murder, Singleton said he forgave the killer. On a recent episode of the Sports Spectrum Podcast, he said it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit that he could utter such words.
“When I forgave my mother’s killer not even 48 hours after my mom was killed, I always say that it had to be God on my heart,” he said. “… I realize that it was God speaking through me. There’s no other question about it.”
Ever since my mother was killed at my church back in 2015 it has become my mission to teach our young people to love one another despite their many differences.
My mother’s life was taken away because of racism, but I promise to keep using my voice to put an end to it! pic.twitter.com/3UQ9X3tBSq
— Chris Singleton (@csingleton__2) June 6, 2019
Singleton was drafted by the Chicago Cubs out of Charleston Southern in 2017. Although he never made the major leagues and was released by the franchise in 2019, Singleton’s career as an author is just beginning.
In an effort to teach kids through his own story of loss, Singleton has authored a children’s book titled “Different: A Story About Loving Your Neighbor,” which is now available on Amazon or at loveyourneighborbrand.com.
Five years ago my mother’s life was taken from this world at our church because of racism.
Ever since then it has been my mission to teach people of all ages one simple message, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.
PLEASE help me TEACH this to our young people!@LOVEynBrand
— Chris Singleton (@csingleton__2) June 1, 2020
“Check yourself. Check your heart. Look in the mirror and say, ‘Why do I believe what I believe and why do I think this way?’ And secondly, teach your kids. And that’s what this book can do,” Singleton said. “… Last but not least, I think the third thing we can all do is simply love your neighbor. The Bible doesn’t say love your neighbor if he looks like you or she has the same hair color or texture as you. The Bible says love your neighbor.”
Singleton said that, largely due to his mother and other family members, he always believed God existed. Yet he said it was after his personal tragedy and through his own pain that God revealed Himself.
“[The shooting] actually strengthened my faith, because I always say that there’s two things you can do when something like that happens to you — my mother was murdered in a church while she was praying,” he said. “I can either say, ‘There’s no way God is real because this happened,’ or I can say, ‘God, I don’t know how this happened but I need You to get me through it.'”
Singleton said he doesn’t believe he would be able to speak about his mother if he didn’t know Jesus. He still sometimes finds himself with a lump in his throat when sharing, but he knows that God can bless others through his words.
“I have that personal relationship,” he said. “I pull from that for my strength, I don’t just try to rely on myself.”
— Chris Singleton (@csingleton__2) June 14, 2020
Singleton also addressed the larger nationwide unrest sparked by the deaths of black people, many at the hands of police officers. Improving race relations and systemic racism will come through difficult conversations, empathy and sometimes even children’s books. But Singleton believes there is hope.
“I think there’s so much good that is coming from this even though a lot of people are focused on the bad. I think that any time you see people of different races or speaking different languages from different countries rallying behind people that don’t look like them, fighting for them, I think that’s powerful,” Singleton said.
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