Title: Think No Evil
Author: Jonas Beiler
Major Themes: Tragedies, Forgiveness, Hope
Synopsis: A moving account of the Nickel Mines School shooting from the perspective of a local counselor.
I’ve been a fan of Shawn Smucker’s writings for quite a while. His blogging first caught my attention, and when I was finally able to read one of his novels, I was intrigued even more. I’ve only read two of his books, but I’m hoping to remedy that—eventually. Picking up Think No Evil was my first step in catching up on the books that I’ve missed. Although technically he isn’t the author of this story, he co-wrote this book, so that’s part of what made me want to pick it up.
The other reason I chose this was because I grew up with ex-Amish friends, and at one stage, I read a book about an Amish schoolhouse shooting. I assume it was based on the same story this one is, but I have no idea now what that one was called. Whether it was or not is somewhat of a moot point; I was interested to refresh my memory of what happened, and wanted to see how the families affected by the tragedy moved on and healed from the incident. I wasn’t disappointed. On all counts, this was a standout read.
Growing up as an Amish boy himself, Jonas Beiler gives a unique perspective on the Nickel Mines School shooting. Although he didn’t choose to stay Amish, Beiler still works with people from that community, and of course, still has a lot of connections with family who remained Amish. After walking through a tragedy of his own, Beiler became a counselor—so when the schoolhouse shooting took place, he was one of the first ones to be called to assist and support the families of loved ones who were killed. As the horrific details of the day unfolded, the world was shaken by the tragedy—and shaken again by the Amish community’s response of love and forgiveness, rather than anger and retaliation. Why did they choose to respond with forgiveness, rather than take the tragedy before the courts? This book attempts to answer that question, and show how the way of peace that Jesus showed and the Amish try to exemplify might actually still work in the 21st century.
The story is told with grace and care. I realized, when reading Think No Evil, that if I did read the story years before, I’ve forgotten most of the details. There were so many things that could have gone much worse that day, but they didn’t…and the hand of God in protecting so many was evident over and over. Beiler has a strong faith, and I loved seeing that come through here. I also loved the way he shared truths from the Bible in such a gentle, loving manner, seeking to show the why behind the Amish people’s decision, and how that affected everyone around them. Parts of this book are unavoidably sad—I caught myself gulping away tears at times. But instead of coming away depressed, I walked away saying “Wow. God’s way really does work.” And I think that’s the reason Beiler told this story. It can come off as an Amish-praising tale, but I don’t believe that was the real intent. The real reason why this book had to be written—and why we have it today—is that God was glorified on that tragic day and in the weeks and months following, and it’s the kind of thing we need to know about.
We’ve all walked through great sorrows and tragedies. And sometimes they seem to irrevocably change us—and often do. But as my family discussed when my brother died, we can choose how we respond to these things—how we allow them to shape us. And in the case of the Amish community, they chose the way of love and peace. It didn’t heal their pain overnight, but in the long run, I’m sure they’d agree they’re in a much better place now for their decision than they would be otherwise.
Think No Evil is a powerful, moving story, and I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates true, redemptive stories. It’s not an easy read, in all respects, but it’s worthwhile. I read it several months ago now, and I’m still mulling over some of the things I learned in its pages.
WARNING: Chapter 4 contains a list of things the killer had prepared, including sexual lubricant. Chapter 5 mentions intended sexual assault (thankfully, that did not happen), and a description of the shooting scene. Later on, in chapters 6 – 9, there are several mentions of other accidents where people were killed (not described). In chapter 10, two girls are taken off life support.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults