By Roy W Harris
Labor Day was once the point of demarcation for all school age children signaling the end of summer fun and the beginning of another nine months of new classrooms, new teachers, new classmates and evenings of homework. School year schedules have changed and many school systems begin classes a month before Labor Day and some continue with extended schedules throughout the year.
Can you remember your first day of school? I remember mine well. I was a short, redheaded, freckle faced five-year-old little boy on my way to kindergarten. Jerry Swallows, a playmate of mine was also headed on this great new adventure with me. The Simmons boys, who lived two houses up the street from us, had prepped me for the biggest event in my short young life. In great detail they warned me of the horrors that awaited little unsuspecting boys. They alerted me to watch out for one thing in particular. Located on the outskirts of our town was a Reform School, a home for delinquent children as they were called in those days. We passed it each time we drove to the park. The Simmons boys told me that my elementary school officials would pick out certain little boys, make them line up and then follow a woman out of the room. Those boys would then be driven to Reform School and would never see their parents again.
We passed through the front doors of the elementary school and mom dropped me off with the other five-year-olds. We were sequestered in a big room. Well, you guessed it. They announced that if your name was called that you were to get in line and follow Miss so and so. I began to cry and did not want to go. I told Jerry to please tell my mom goodbye for me. What a mean, dirty trick for older boys to play on an innocent, trusting and unsuspecting little boy. Obviously, the school offi cials had so many five-yearolds that they were dividing the group into classes, and each one of us were assigned to follow our new teacher to our new classroom.
You will never know how wonderful it felt to see my mom walk through the door and pick me up later in the day. I was really scared by the whole ordeal. I didn’t tell anyone about it, but I never forgot it. I’ve gotten over it, but I still have a little chill run down my spine when I enter elementary schools (not really). I moved on, forgave the Simmons boys, and Marcus (aka Bug) became one of my closest neighborhood friends.
All of us can relate experiences about when people have done us wrong. I can remember telling my parents: “that isn’t fair.”
In a perfect world no one would ever deceive, mistreat or hurt anyone else. But unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world, and life certainly is not always fair. One of the hardest things in life to do, is forgive. It seems to come more easily to children. They forgive little conflicts with their siblings and playmates. Within minutes the whole affair is forgotten, and they are playing together again. With adults, it is not as simple. The older we get, the harder it seems be to forgive. Forgiveness is an act that does as much, if not more, for the forgiver as the forgiven.
What does forgiving someone who has wronged us, do for us? It frees us from the control of the inner hurt they’ve caused us. Many times people who’ve mistreated us don’t lose three seconds sleep over the whole matter. We may carry it for days, months and yes, even years. They forget completely about it, but we relive it over and over again. We are captivated in the prison of our own thoughts. A decision to forgive, even though the person may not have asked for forgiveness, frees us from the prison of our own hurt feelings and helps us move on with life.
Forgiveness is an essential part of a warm and happy marriage. It was once said that a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. Forgiveness is essential in the work place if we are to get along with people and learn to be content with our jobs. Forgiveness is essential with our neighbors. I once knew of two ladies who didn’t speak to each other for over twenty years because one lady’s chickens strayed into the garden of the other. What a waste. Twenty years of friendship sacrificed over some chickens and tomatoes.
Forgiveness is essential on the highway. I know there are bad drivers out there who cut us off and do inconsiderate things. Forgiving at that moment may keep us from saying or doing something we may regret later.
The scriptures teach us that if we want peace and God’s forgiveness, then we must forgive others. It is not easy, and it sometimes takes us a while to arrive there. But we are the winners when we forgive. We have much to gain when we forgive others and much to lose when we do not. So don’t stay in the prison of hurt and mistreated feelings.
Forgive early, forgive generously, forgive completely and forgive eternally. You’ll be the WINNER. Remember that old saying: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”