Feb 20, 2011

Enchiladas, a priest, a stranger and forgiveness

Every once in awhile, an unscripted event occurs that affects me enough that it must be told to others.  Today was one of these chance encounters.

Mass, then massive enchiladas for lunch at my favorite Mexican joint.  I had a coupon for a free "child platter" with paying adult.  Key words are Mexican and platter and free.  Score!   

As Pigtails and I were wrapping up crunching tortilla chips and beans fuming with diced jalapenos, a kind older woman walked over and whispered that she needed to speak with me.  

I asked if I was in trouble, she winked and said I was.  

She's of the generation I admire most, that polite, rugged, friendly, wise, grounded, witty and caring type that listens so well and causes me to yearn to flip back the time machine six decades to live out simpler days with them.

She said, "I was watching you and your daughter as you were eating.  She reminds me of my daughter when she was that age.  Hold onto her."

I sensed the weight, but didn't quite know where she was going.  

She continued, "She was the type that would date the most unpopular boy in high school to prove to others that he was a nice guy.  She didn't care what other people thought, she always desired to do the right thing."

Moron me asked, "It sounds like she was raised right.  Is she happily married now?"

She paused as a tear built.  I'd already blown it with the wrong words. 

"My daughter was killed by an underage drunk driver when she was 17 years old."

I didn't know what to say, other than "I'm so sorry.  I don't know how I would ever be able to handle that if it happened to my daughter.  I'd be so angry at that drunk, I don't think I'd be able to forgive him."  

She said "Oh, I didn't forgive him for a long time.  When the newspaper reporter came by for an interview, he ran the headline, Angry mother says forgiveness can wait. 

I glanced at Pigtails, she was over at the gumball dispenser trying to shake out free M&Ms and Smarties.

"Have you been able to forgive him as time went on?"

She nodded, "Yes I have, but it took years and years."

"What led you to do so?"

"Well, God can't use me if I don't forgive.  I had to if I was going to be used as a vessel.  I couldn't have let go of the anger if it wasn't for my faith and by God's strength."

Whoa.

This stranger was living out the words of the Gospel from Matthew 5 that Father M. had read just an hour prior during the homily.  He said we mustn't wait for motivation to do the right thing.  We should do the right thing regardless, and motivation to continue will flow once we begin.  

Ye have heard it said, love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.  For if you love them which love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the unjust do the same? - Mat. 5

This strong woman has learned to love her enemy, or at least to forgive him.  She made me realize I need to appreciate what I have, truly forgive others and understand I can't be a good servant unless I let go and love. 

Jotted this blog address for her and told her Pigtails and I would pray for her tonight.  I hope she reads this.  

I gave my daughter a big hug in the car, then was silent on the drive home.

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