The other side of forgiveness, is being the person who needs to be forgiven. When I first decided to offer the forgiveness themed retreat, I was thinking it would be focused on my many experiences of forgiving others. God quickly not only reminded me of the times I was the one who needed forgiveness, but also gave me a fresh reminder as to be sure I had a complete understanding of this topic. The first retreat had been booked for August, and I was preparing my PowerPoint presentation, reading various books - including Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach, as well as spending time in Adoration.
But this was only July, and my 'education' was to take place beyond the books and into real life (again). We had just started at a new parish, and they were hosting Vacation Bible School (VBS). I had been a part of VBS in my last 2 parishes, one as co-director for nearly 10 years, and the other as preschool director. This time I was coming as a parent and interpreter for my daughter, Faith. My teenage sons had been volunteered by me to help out, which neither minded doing once I was able to drag them out of bed to go! The first day, per usual, we were running very late. I was tired, stressed and just not feeling well that day - all things I could easily use as an excuse for what was about to happen. We arrived late, were greeted by some not so friendly parents in line, there was noise and confusion which only added to my preexisting crabby condition. I finally get to the check in - the hard-working volunteer (who was also the director), hands me Faith's t-shirt, and tells me she is in the preschool group and I LOST IT!
This was her first opportunity to travel with the Kindergartners or even the First graders given her age, and I was dumbfounded as to how she got put with the 'little kids". I was patient, charitable nor kind with my words. The women's eyes welled with tears, and she offered to move her to another group, feeling overwhelmed and just wanting this experience over, I grabbed the t-shirt, mumbled no it is fine, and off I went. We were escorted into the preschool room, where we would meet a room full of absolutely lovely kids, including two girls, who like faith had special needs. She instantly feel in love with them, her fellow campers and the absolutely remarkable teacher. The class was self-contained making interpreting easier than moving from place to place, and I instantly knew God's plan for Faith was WAY better than mine.
At that moment I knew I had two choices to make. I could put my tail between my legs, and apologize to that poor volunteer, who was completely giving of her time and talent for the spiritual well-being of the children of our parish. Or, I could hope she'd not gotten a good look at me in the somewhat dark hall that morning, and go upon my day (week) llike nothing happened. Praying for the strength, and then with God's grace - I found her, and apologized. It is never easy to admit when we've been a complete nincompoop but I knew it was exactly what I needed to do. Difficult, yes. Embarrassing, absolutely but no more than my behavior that morning! Her response was so immediate acceptance, she light up with gratitude and surprise. Many other parents, this week and week's prior had spoken to her the same way, but I was the first to ever come back an ask forgiveness for doing so.
I am so glad I did, because this wonderful lady became one of my most cherished friends at my new parish. A blessing I would have closed myself to, if I had not been willing to swallow my pride, ask for God's divine assistance, and embrace the gift of courage and apologize. Sometimes we need to forgive, others we need to be forgiven. Today we will ask God to clearly show us if there is anyone whose forgiveness we need to ask.