The news has been filled with the story of the guy from Mali who rescued a four year old dangling from a balcony in Paris on May 26, 2018. This is a story of grace.
The young man heard a commotion, saw the child dangling from a fourth-floor balcony, and began to climb. He didn’t know the child. He didn’t know the people milling around, shouting at the child and each other. He just started to climb. Someone needed to help, and he chose to step in. That is grace.
But it goes deeper than that.
Mamoudou Gassama is from Mali, a mostly Islamic country in northwest Africa and a former French colony, which has been in turmoil for decades and is currently a hotpsot for armed Islamic groups. Gassama journeyed for five years, enduring the desert and near-enslavement, until he finally made it to Paris in September of 2017. Illegally.
That’s right, he’s an illegal immigrant. By his very actions of saving the child, he jeopardized his own freedom and safety. But he did it anyway. That’s grace.
President Macron of France, in a meeting with Gassama face-to-face, extended to him official residency and an internship with the Parisian firefighters as a thank you. That is grace.
Now, when I first heard about Macron’s gesture, my response was this:
I can’t imagine our current administration doing the same. Even if the POTUS was willing, he’d be crucified by his constituency for giving in to the left or for coddling an illegal. Give citizenship and a job to an illegal? Aaargh! They’d be crying deportation. And the opposition would jump on the chance to point out his inconsistency. And that the hero was black and from one of those awful Islamic countries in constant conflict. And they’d politicize him and use him for their own agenda.
Well, guess what? Macron is facing that kind of opposition himself! France’s politics on immigration are even more polarized than those in the U.S. The anti-immigrant folks are already bemoaning Macron’s actions and, according to the New York Times, “Some, including groups that help undocumented migrants, criticized the government as hypocritical for praising Mr. Gassama while pushing to deport others like him, calling Mr. Macron’s Élysée invitation a public relations stunt.”
No matter how you look at it, the current climate of political non-discourse would trample a wonderful example of the best in humanity beneath agendas that have no room for grace.
We need more Mr. Gassamas, regardless of their origin or status.
We need more grace.