Forgiveness

l’Arche is a Christian community where people with and without developmental disabilities live together and create community. I lived in l’Arche, Winnipeg, with Nicole, Ross and Bob.

The three of them rode the bus to work every day. Ross and Nicole could take the bus independently, but Bob could neither read nor speak, and so he always needed someone to accompany him on the bus. Left on his own, Bob could easily take the wrong bus, miss the correct stop or even go off with a stranger.

One afternoon Nicole and Ross came home without Bob. “Where’s Bob?” I asked.

“He didn’t get on the bus,” Nicole explained.

“I can see that he did not come home with you, but where is he?” I asked more insistently.

“He didn’t get on the bus,” Ross responded.

“Did you see him after work?” I persisted, trying to figure out what had happened.

“No,” Nicole said, “we didn’t see him, so we left when the bus came.”

I began to panic as I realized Bob was either still downtown or had gotten on the wrong bus or…I tried not to get carried away with what might have happened to him. I was very angry with Nicole and Ross, because they knew they were supposed to wait for Bob.

A few minutes later, though, Bob arrived with someone from another l’Arche house. He was visibly upset, his face red and teeth clenched. Although Bob did not speak in sentences, he was able to make himself understood.

I brought Nicole and Ross together with Bob to talk about what had happened.

“Bob, how do you feel about Nicole and Ross leaving you?” I asked. “Are you angry?”

“Yeah,” he shouted.

“Were you scared being left behind?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he groaned.

“Nicole and Ross, what do you have to say to Bob?” I asked.

“I’m sorry we left you,” Nicole offered.

“I’m sorry, too,” Ross chimed in.

“And what will you do the next time you don’t see Bob at the bus stop?” I asked.

“We will wait for him,” they both agreed.

Ross then extended his hand to Bob, and Bob took the proffered hand and shook it. Nicole did likewise. Bob then hugged each of them and I could see the anger leave him. He smiled as he hugged them, a genuine smile. He had forgiven them, just like that!

The three of them started to leave the kitchen. “Wait a second,” I demanded. They stopped and turned back toward me.

I wanted to tell Bob that he had let them off too easy, that this all happened too fast. I wanted for Nicole and Ross to experience some negative consequences for their actions for just a bit longer.

But, in those few seconds, as they stood waiting for me to speak, I realized that I had just witnessed true forgiveness, the kind of forgiveness I always want when I have made a mistake and apologized—and the kind of forgiveness I would like to offer others.

That moment has become a standard for me, reminding me of the importance of admitting mistakes, apologizing, shaking hands, hugging, letting go and moving on.

As I get ready to leave Pennsylvania, I extend my hand, asking for forgiveness from anyone I have hurt and offering forgiveness to anyone who has hurt me.

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6 thoughts on “Forgiveness

  1. aschansen@comcast.net

    Dear Madeline,

    I wish you God’s speed on you new journey. I have really appreciated your blog- you are quite a writer. I hope you continue to share your thoughts as you move forward. Returning to your family & home will be quite a transition.

       All of us, especially in Rotary will miss you. I hope you will consider joining another club in Detroit. Michael McCullough a past Rotary International Director, is a printer in Trenton MI. He and his wife Sherry live at 1893 Ardmore Rd. Trenton 1-734-671-5856. They are wonderful folk and could connect you with a Rotary Club near your new work place and/or home.

     

    Looking forward to reading your next blog

    Safe travels

    Anne Hansen

     

    Reply
    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks, Anne, for your support.
      I hope to connect with Rotary in MI. Trenton is on the south side of Detroit, and I will be living on the north side, but I will keep them in mind. My work will still be with literacy, so Rotary is such a natural connection (and I am completely at home there).
      Madeline

      Reply
  2. jaflannery@verizon.net

     Dear, dear Madeline:You truly are the best!! I still can’t figure out the blog or whatever. Anyway, I hope you get this as a regular e-ma

    Reply
  3. acne cyst

    Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was very long) so I guess I will just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring weblog blogger but I am still new towards the whole thing. Do you’ve any factors for beginner blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

    Reply
    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks for your support. I had been blogging for work for several years; I am new at my personal blog. I feel like I am writing random thoughs on random subjects. My life has changed greatly over the past two years because of the illness and death of my friend Jim (and before that, my cousin Marlene also got cancer and died). I have left my home and friends in Philadelphia to move to be near my family. I am in transition, and I am grieving a great deal. A friend had been previewing my entries, and he told me people want to read honest reflections. I am trying to be transparent in my writing–and to become more comfortable with my feelings of vulnerability. Another writer once told me, “Just write,” and I think that is good advice. I write every day, for a least a little while; my goal is to post once a week. I hope that helps.

      Reply

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