2014-11-11

Forgiveness 1

Stage Setting

Before I begin sharing my own reflections on forgiveness, as I shall be doing in subsequent posts this week, please consider two scenarios and a poem.

Scenario #1

You’ve been grocery shopping. Now you’ve gotta get the groceries home and put away. You’re under some time pressure because you have an appointment coming up. You get to your apartment building, but the parking places on that side of the street are taken, so you have to park across the street. At the grocery store, you had asked for paper rather than plastic, and what you’ve got are three brimming-full paper grocery bags. You decide you need to do this in one trip, so you scoop up all three bags. Your field of vision is now somewhat limited. You wait for the light to change. You know it says “walk” for only a few seconds before it goes into its warning blink, and that stopped cars are ready to proceed the instant the light changes back. You’re making your way across the street, when some clod walking by the other direction bumps into you. Your groceries spill in the middle of the street. Your body floods with that anger reaction. Blood pressure up, you see red. You spin around, clutching the one bag of groceries that didn’t spill, and the angry, loud words that are already starting to come out of your mouth are definitely not words you would want your children to hear. In that moment you see . . . the white cane. The anger just drains right away as you see the truth of the situation with clarity.

Scenario #2

from the 1982 film Gandhi (and see video clip below):

Violent rioting has broken out. Muslim and Hindu mobs are attacking and killing each other all over India. Gandhi goes on a hunger strike – refusing to eat until the violence stops. In the film, we see Gandhi weak and in bed from fasting. Leaders of the fighting factions come in, throw down their swords and promise they will fight no more. One man then pushes through and flings bread on Gandhi.
Man: Eat! I'm going to Hell! But not with your death on my soul.
Gandhi: Only God decides who goes to hell.
Man: I killed a child! I smashed his head against a wall.
Gandhi: Why?
Man: They killed my son. My boy. [Holds out his hand at waist level to indicate the boy’s height.] The Muslims killed my son!
Gandhi: I know a way out of Hell. Find a child, a child whose mother and father have been killed – a little boy about this high [holds out hand to indicate the same height the man had indicated] -- and raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.
The man is astounded. Then his stunned expression seems to turn from disbelief to wonder. He turns to go. Stops. Turns back to Gandhi. Gets on his knees and bows to the ground.

Poem

"How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?"
by Dick Lourie

How do we forgive our Fathers?
Maybe in a dream
Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever
when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.
Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?
For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning
for shutting doors
for speaking through walls
or never speaking
or never being silent?
Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it?
If we forgive our Fathers what is left?

* * *
This is part 1 of 4 of 'Forgiveness'
Next: Part 2

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Clip from "Gandhi" (1982):

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