The Power of Forgiveness

Andrea

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

“I See You!”  “I Am Here”

For centuries African Bushmen have greeted each other in this way.

When the one becomes aware of his brother or sister

coming out of the brush, he exclaims, “I see you!”

And then the one approaching rejoices, “I am here!” 

 

We were driving one night along a very deserted road in Utah. It had been sprinkling all evening, so we’d kept driving in the

hopes of finding some shelter to bed down under. Suddenly, the rising moon broke through low clouds and lit up the desert around us.

I turned to Linda and said, Wouldn’t it be cool if the moon were bright enough to make a rainbow? She responded, Look out the

 window! Sure enough, there it was: a misty, surrealistic arc of violets and indigo. We felt like the rainbow was our personal gift from

Nature. It seemed as if something out there was saying, I heard you and I know right where you are. That was the encouragement I

needed. I felt like I could handle whatever was coming, knowing someone would have their eyes on me.

 

I was 21 years old and headed back home, having spent the last few years running. From responsibility, from smoldering

bridges, from a frightening world, and from the religion of my childhood. I honestly felt that I had one friend in the world. 

Thankfully, she was sitting next to me in the truck. My solitary search for purpose and value had given me plenty of one-on-one time

with Creation. What stuck with me most was: Beauty, Mercy, and Love. I decided to repair my former life. This cross-country trip

was a crawl of faith.

 

By 33 I was married, raising 3 children under the age of six and divorced. Everything of value to me was suddenly

squeezed into a mini van. I remember my reaction clearly. Alright, where are you? I can’t see good in this at all. You obviously have

me confused with a much stronger person. We went from rising middle class to sinking poverty level. I rolled change a lot.

Finding a place that I could afford and feel safe in was an anxiety-ridden task for me. I am forever indebted to the people who

opened their homes for temporary shelter. I am grateful for the neighbors who kept a protective eye over us in the dangerous

neighborhoods we lived in. We received donations of furniture, linens, handmade pottery castoffs, and clothing.  I thank the many

people who loaned, repaired and sold me cars. I appreciate the honest auto mechanics who waited for their money, and accepted $40

worth of quarters.

I was trained in electronic assembly and readily found work in that industry. However with the high cost of childcare, the

uncertainty of child support and my children’s schedules, it eventually made more sense to be self-employed. I am grateful to the

many people who trusted me in their homes to clean, pet sit or watch their children. 
At 36, feeling healthy and strong, I had a car accident. As a result, physical labor was no longer practical. I’m thankful for

the grants that allowed me to go back to college. I earned an Associates Degree in Civil Technology. I am grateful for my caring

professors. I got a job while still in school and my income increased by over 50%. I appreciate the employers who understood my

need for flexible hours. When a work injury left me partially disabled, I received more training so I could find new employment.

 I worked part time and rolled more change.

We eventually moved out of the city and into subsidized housing. It was an ethnically diverse neighborhood, with residents

from Turkey, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Iraq, Vietnam, China, Puerto Rico, and more. Thankfully, my children now have a view of the bigger

world. Living side by side with other cultures taught them understanding, acceptance, and appreciation.

New phrases were added to my vocabulary, like: Reduced for quick sale.  Day old.  Use or freeze by….  Clearance. and Last load in by 8:00. I benefited from the local Food Cupboard and Salvation Army. I also heard things like:  Have you eaten? 

 

Why don’t you stay for dinner? and Take the rest home for you and the kids.

At times it felt as though I was traveling through the wilderness and, like the children of Israel, there were brake pads

and tires that didn’t wear out, gas tanks that should have been empty miles ago, and clothes that didn’t fall apart after numerous

washings. Sometimes, manna came in the form of an unexpected check. I was also noticedin the little things. In the little boy who

gave me a clothespin Joseph, wrapped in a scrap coat of many colors. His memory verse: What Satan meant for evil, God meant for

good.

There were times I feared for my life and learned that I was flanked by protection. More than once I heard a voice say,

I am here. Be not afraid. Even in the midst of despair, Life conspired to keep me going with moments of beauty and laughter.

It taught me to treasure every day that was given to me.

When my son was diagnosed with Autism, I felt broadsided. Challenge doesn’t even begin to describe it. I want to

publicly recognize his teachers and professionals. My unending love to Pat Brody, one of his first teachers, who discovered and

capitalized on his art talent. Many thanks for the voice, art, dance and music lessons given to us. My children survived, and thrived,

thanks to the dedication and caring of these people.

And when there wasn’t a human being there, I cried in invisible arms. I may not have always been able to count on

people, but I always knew I was loved. I always knew someone somewhere was praying for me. I didn’t feel abandoned because 

doors opened, steps were revealed and no matter how dark it got, the light never went out.

 As you can imagine, there were many lonely hours to fill.  I walked a lot, grateful for canine companions, from whom I

learned to pay attention. Nature became my Balm of Gilead. I painted. I made things. I volunteered, the summer with Habitat For

Humanity changing me forever. I danced alone in the kitchen. I gardened. I rolled change.
And I read. A lot. I read the Bible again, mostly the Psalms and Jesus’ words. I read books recommended by friends. My

thanks for Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies; Jane Goodall’s Reason For Hope; and Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak, to name only a few.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to WXXI and WRUR, my local public radio. Music sustained me, particularly that of Sweet

Honey In The Rock, John Prine, and Bat McGrath. Their songs of struggle, love, and purpose reminded me that I was not alone, and

helped me put one foot in front of the other.

I’m grateful for the wise things spoken to me: Years from now your children will not remember if they had a clean house;

they will remember that someone spent time with them.  You can do so much with so little.  Don’t stop dreaming.  Be here now.

Eat something. There were constant and encouraging letters from my sister. Many hours of girlfriend therapy. Those who loved

me even when I was difficult. Those who offered me tenderness when I was weary.  People were the voice of Love saying, I see

you, without judgment or a need to know the gory details of our situation.

My oldest is kind and hard working, going through his own struggles as a young man with courage and thoughtfulness.

My son with Autism is an overcomer, having been encouraged to do what he loves best. He has taught me the value of seeing things

from another point of view, as well as the importance of patience and gentleness. My daughter is multi-talented, intelligent, and

intuitive. She has taught me about honesty in communication, and to remember joy. Thanks to them I’ve never lost my sense of

humor.
           
I still don’t know why painful things happen. I don’t know why the world is still a scary place at times. As I get older I

think that it’s just Life. What I do know is that Someone is always watching and that everyone deserves notice.  I know that I am

grateful for the influence of lives before mine, and that I have a responsibility to the generation after me.

To paraphrase Nancy Griffith , Ben Lee , and Toshi Reagan :

It’s a hard life wherever you go,
but if we forget that we’re all in this together,
and we poison our children with hatred;
then a hard life is all that we’ll know.

Standing in this maelstrom, I still believe in kindness.