Sarah R. Callender

Forgiveness

In General on August 5, 2010 at 7:30 am

Not too long ago, I nearly ran over an Orthodox Jewish man. A Saturday morning it was, a bit foggy in our little neck of the valley, and I was, I’ll admit it, running late for a class at the gym. I am always running late for something, because I am always taking my kids with me and when one has a daughter who moves at the speed of worm, one is often running late. To everywhere.

This particular morning however, I stopped at the four-way stop near our house, then proceeded to turn left. At this same moment, a man entered the crosswalk, a man whom I had not seen waiting to cross.

I was, admittedly, doing one of those quick-burst, zero-to-15 m.p.h. left turns because as you remember, I was late. Because I have Worm-Speed for a daughter. And, because of that, I hadn’t seen this man waiting (probably very patiently) for me to stop so he could cross. So I nearly hit the poor guy.

First things first. When I say, “nearly” I really mean, “stopped my car at least eight feet before there was any skin-to-minivan contact.”

He, however, sensed he had almost crossed his last crosswalk. The rage on his face! The flailing arms! The lips mouthing, “Watch where you’re going!”

“OH MY GOSH!” I said to him, rolling down the window. “I’m SO sorry. I didn’t even see you . . . I really didn’t. I am so, so sorry!”

Now, let me pause to remind you that this man, I can only assume, was an Orthodox Jewish man, walking to the synagogue just 1.5 blocks from our house. If you happen not to live 1.5 blocks from an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, and don’t often see the men walking to and from the synagogue, you might not know they look are sometimes dressed something like this:

I will also pause to explain that Buddy has been known to ask, “Mom? Why are all of those men dressed up like Presidents?”

So yes, I have “nearly” hit this poor man, and I am apologizing profusely through my open window, knowing full well that he’s only angry because he was scared, and he’s only scared because he thought this was his LAST CROSSWALK, and as everyone knows, fear sometimes makes people act in ways they ordinarily wouldn’t.

I continue to apologize because I cannot STAND it when people, especially Godly people, are angry with me. Meanwhile, he continues to rant and rave, calling me things like “stupid blind lady.” And so it goes: I continue to apologize, he continues to rant. Which is precisely when something snaps or clicks or blows inside me.

I pause. “Hey!” I yell. “Wait a minute! I said I was sorry! I’m sorry, OK? HAVEN’T YOU EVER HEARD OF FORGIVENESS?”

He paused, stomped huffily to the other side of the street, and yelled back, really yelled, his fist punching the fog above our heads, “FORGIVENESS IS NOT FOR US TO DECIDE!”

And with that, he turned and continued on to his destination, which, I can only imagine involved a peaceful morning of worship at the synagogue.

Of course, that’s when I started giggling. And remembered Buddy and Sweetie were in the car, strapped into their boosters, their eyes wide.

That’s the problem with being a Flooder. When you’re a Flooder, emotions flood your entire body so fast that you forget there are impressionable young people strapped into their booster seats right behind you.

Which made me giggle harder. “Sorry guys,” I said. “I got a little worked up there, huh.”

Sweetie nodded.

“But who’s fault was it?” Buddy asked. He is, at least for now, my child who obsesses over The Rules.

I went on to explain that I was totally the one at fault. What with my lateness and the fog and the fact that this man was standing in front of a dark brown fence and a dark brown telephone pole (the perfect camo) when he must have started crossing, I had made a big mistake in not driving more carefully.

But gosh I really hate it when people call me “stupid blind lady” and use lots of gesticulation to demonstrate their loathing for me. That’s hard for me.

The other thing that’s hard for me is this man’s statement that people have no responsibility to forgive, that it is God’s job to determine who should be forgiven. That really bummed me out. If the people I love most, my husband, my kids, my family hadn’t forgiven me for the many dumb things I do, I’d be screwed six ways from Saturday.

And while we’re at it, while we’re forgiving our loved ones for their moments of stupidity, shouldn’t we also try to forgive strangers?

Maybe, of course, this man (who I’m sure is a perfectly lovely person) has forgiven me. Maybe by the time he started his worship, he had forgiven me. Or, maybe in his mind, it really isn’t his problem to make some stupid blind mom feel better, certainly not she when frightens him on a foggy Saturday morning in Seattle.

But if we don’t forgive, doesn’t that lack of forgiveness just fester, turning into a big ball of mad and bitter and ugly? Yep. And I think that’s a big ball of stuff we do NOT need more of in this Big Blue Marble.

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  1. I’m just want to say how much love I have for your writing! I wish I had something equally inspiring and witty to share, but all I can do is just enjoy your words. Lovely reflection.

  2. This is so me!!! I hate it when people are upset with me. I always apologize with similar incidents and have blown up when I don’t get the “forgiveness nod or smile.”. You should of seen me screaming at this lady on a neighborhood street by View Ridge pool when I apologized to her for parking LEGALLY on her street because she was upset that some did not park legally and I was the one there obediently moving my car (despite the fact my car was not one of the guilty ones) and took it out on me. She would not stop lecturing me after I unnecessarily apologized. Luckily, my kids didn’t witness this outburst of mine, but they definitely have witnessed others 🙂

  3. Jen, I probably know that lady. Is it the brown house right next to the trail? There are some crazy old bats on my street. Sarah, I can totally relate to this writing, except we’re usually late because Sid is always changing her outfits! Have fun at your reunion. RK

  4. OK. How did I miss Big Blue Marble? Was this a TV show that my parents somehow deprived me of?And if so, why did they let me watch crap like Hee-Haw and Star Trek? (Sorry, Trekkies.) Anyway, great story. It reminds me how, when someone pushes us, our instinct is to push back–even if initially we feel totally culpable and responsible and we’re tripping over ourselves to apologize. So it’s better to let someone’s own remorse do the work, rather than pile on anger and guilt (as this man did to–to his detriment). Yes. Good to know when living with someone you love or raising small children.

  5. Wow, his response that forgiveness is not for us to decide is pretty shocking and sad! I agree, lack of forgiveness leaves a person with a bitter heart. But I must add, forgiveness can be one of the toughest things to do especially when it has to do with, uh um, extended family. However, it’s so worth it and can be so life giving. On another note, your Buddy and Sweetie sound too much like my two! Glad I’m not alone! 😉

  6. Sarah, I loved this. I too have done things like that and was at the receiving end of a rant and feeling very bad. It will bother me all day and I will relive it over and over! When I read that you asked about forgiveness, I thought, “wow, I will have to remember that and use it!” I think this old world needs more forgiveness and grace and less anger and judgement. Thanks!

  7. Sarah, I am loving your blog! I have a child who moves at the speed of a worm, too. And I am always running late!

  8. “…screwed six ways from Saturday.”

    I love idiomatic expressions like that, but they always make me wonder how they got started in the first place. Escpecially since this story takes place ON a Saturday, it sounds like you didn’t have a chance anyway with this guy. Oy vey!

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