In our lives, there are times when we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve done our best to keep up, to do what’s right and despite our most valiant efforts, our best just isn’t good enough. Simply put, something goes wrong, or we wrong another and we have to face the consequences. Mistakes, accidents, lapses in judgement, call them what you will, but they happen to us all, and many times there isn’t anything more we can do than just ask for some forgiveness.
As hard as it is to ask for forgiveness, sometimes I think it’s even more difficult to dole it out. We all want forgiveness and, when we need it, we want it by the pound for the penny. However, when someone comes to ask for forgiveness, and we are asked to give it, the only pound we often think of is the pound of flesh we believe that we deserve.
I learned a great lesson about forgiveness early in my driving career.
I grew up in Boise, Idaho and for reasons that made a lot of sense to me then, but make very little sense to me now, we were able to be licensed to drive when we were 14. On the day I got the little piece of plastic that made it legal for me to drive, our family didn’t have a “third car” or “kids car” so, much of my early driving happened in a big brown GMC van. It was often hard to see everything from every angle in the brown beast. But, ended up being a great learning environment for all of the vans I would have to drive later as a result of my injury.
In my teens, through all the foolishness, I worked hard to respect my parents property and did my best not to make a mistake. But, just like anyone driving a 1/2 ton van, it was often difficult to see everything from every angle.
One Saturday, I was backing my van out of the garage and sweating bullets because, as I looked out my rear view mirror, I saw my dad’s brand-new BMW parked on the opposite side of the driveway. Carefully, slowly and working to anticipate every possible situation, I slowly moved my van through the driveway, and toward the street.
Just as I felt I was home free, I heard the sound nearly every teenager dreads–that horrible steel on steel sound that puts a hole where your stomach once was. My van had hit his pristine “Beemer” and I feared the worst. I quickly put the van in Park and hustled around to see how much damage had been done.
I was grateful to see that there were no dents, but ruined as I saw the scratch that went across both doors on the drivers side. My first thought was that hopefully I could just buff them out. Regardless which car product I used or how much elbow grease I applied, the scratch just simply wouldn’t go away.
Finally, I knew what I had to do. I went into my dad and told him that I’d hit his car. He asked if I was okay, and I told him that it wasn’t that kind of accident. We walked outside and for what seemed like hours, he quietly circled his “Not Just a Car but a Driving Machine” occasionally looking back at at the Van.
Over and over I kept telling him how sorry I was and how I’d work off every penny. I kept explaining how I’d been so careful, and how I was sure I was far enough away. Finally, he turned to me ready to speak and I prepared myself to never again see another penny and be grounded until I was 24 (basically life in my young eyes). It was then when he taught me a lesson of a lifetime.
He turned to me and said, “It’s only a car, son.” He put his arm around me and with my jaw dragging on the floor, we went back into the house.
I was blown away. Not because I felt like I had somehow gotten off easy. But, because of the words he said. I kept thinking about all the ways he could have handled the situation, all the punishments he could have offered up, and about his words, “It’s only a car, son.”
I know he was upset. I know he was disappointed that his car had been damaged. I know it was going to be an expense he didn’t want to have to pay. There were many lessons he could’ve taught me that day. The value of a dollar, the importance of being a careful driver, the way you have to take responsibility for your actions, etc. But that day, he decided to teach me a lesson about forgiveness.
In my life today, when someone does me wrong I try to remember his message. I try to remember that, for the most part the things we get upset about, are just that, things. And, that what matters most are the people we interact with and the way they feel when our interaction is over.
There are many that will say he was too easy, there are many that will say he was too soft, and that that kind of parenting just doesn’t work.
It wasn’t the way he parented every day, but on that day his choice was the right one. For, the trade-off was worth it. That day, he taught me a lesson I have worked to never forget, one we would all do well to remember. He taught me that even when the stakes are high we can still forgive, we can still be kind, we can still work to be understanding of others.
The next time you are wronged and you begin to exact your pound of flesh remember that things can be replaced and people can’t, Remember that in the end “It’s only a car.”
This summer has been crazy, and I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I should have. I’m coming out with a little Mea Culpa and asking for a little understanding and forgiveness. I’m working to be more regular with my posts in order to keep you interested and coming back more frequently.