Making the Grades
This made-for-TV movie received a TV-PG.
Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania was a quiet little hamlet, populated largely by the Amish (a religious order that lives simply, without the aid of modern conveniences). The agricultural community consciously attempted to keep themselves apart from the rest of the world. Then, on October 2, 2006, a calamity occurred that brought the tiny town and its residents into the global spotlight.
Charles Carl Roberts, a truck driver who frequently picked up milk from the Amish farmers, entered their one-room schoolhouse, taking some of the female students hostage. Within an hour, ten young girls were shot (five of whom died) and the perpetrator committed suicide.
As the media gathered to make their reports, the biggest story to emerge was not the mass killings, but instead the incredibly forgiving attitude of the Amish people toward the wife and children of the murderer.
The made-for-TV movie Amish Grace dramatizes this amazing response by using a fictional family called the Grabers.
Mary Beth and Katie Graber (Madison Davenport and Karley Scott Collins) are amongst the students in the school that fateful day. Arriving mid-morning, Charlie the milk truck driver (John Churchill) pushes his way into the classroom carrying a heavy duffle bag. A moment later, the teacher and a pupil flee from the backdoor. Silent images of an empty playground and idle toys are all the production uses to imply the brutality occurring within the small building.
Alerted by the panicked educator, the police surround the school, which quickly draws the locals to the scene of the crime. As the news spreads through the crowd, friends and families huddle to pray while waiting to hear which of their children are wounded or dead.
After what seems like an eternity, Gideon and Ida Graber (Matt Letscher and Kimberly Williams-Paisley) learn their eldest daughter has perished. Ida is asked to go with an officer to identify her body. (Only her shocked reaction is shown).
Meanwhile Gideon follows the other Amish Elders to the home of Amy Roberts (Tammy Blanchard), the wife of the gunman. Together they tell the recent widow they hold no malice towards her husband. They also offer neighborly love to the sorrowing, ashamed woman and her three children.
Although these words require much faith of Gideon, he believes God’s promise that peace will follow forgiveness. Yet for Ida, pardoning the killer feels like a betrayal of her love for her lost child. Caught in their war of words is Katie, who is struggling with her own sense of guilt for having survived the shooting.
As each of the characters labors on their personal journey to come to terms with what has happened, the script shares insights into the thoughts of the doubters as well as the believers. Despite the horrific incident at the center of this story, the movie does a wonderful job of looking at the many aspects of grief, and the power of compassion to transcend even the greatest tragedy. As in real life, watching these humble people practicing what they preach provides a shining example worthy of emulation by all mankind.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Amish Grace.
This made-for-TV movie is based upon the book written about the true story. Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, is authored by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher.
How does the script use Gideon and Ida to represent the various reactions a person might have in response to such a loss? What other characters are used to portray the possible feelings of victims, their families, friends and the public, as well as religious and non-religious individuals? What do you think you would do if this happened to you?
The Amish Elders say they will not allow hatred into their hearts. Is it a choice? They also tell Amy Roberts that she will likely face harsh judgment from others. Why? In what ways is she also a victim of her husband’s behavior?
When Katie struggles with angry emotions, her father asks her to think about how hate makes her feel. What do you think about Gideon’s belief that forgiveness will bring peace?