Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sticks and stones, forgiveness, and grace...

*photo courtesy of clericalwhispers.blogspot.com

    Today, I was supposed to blog about fun and active activities that we are going to do this summer. However, my heart isn't into it because of a situation that happened at the end of last week. It has to do with words. Remember that old saying, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me?" Well, I never believed that. I believed that words can break your heart. Your spirit. So I need to process this situation. I need to pray about it. But I need to write about it because sometimes that is how I do both of those things.... 

     So last Thursday, Tom and I took a blessed few hours to ourselves. We headed to The Virginia Holocaust Museum to view the Blessings tour. It is a beautifully done tribute to our dear Pope John Paul II and his relationship with our Jewish brothers and sisters. (Check to see if it is coming to a town near you. Simply profound.) As we are looking at the pictures, reading the words, listening to the sound bites, I was struck with not only the horror of the treatment of fellow human beings, but I also felt such sadness. How could this happen? Name-calling. Spitting. Hitting. Active, ugly actions that wound and tear at the human spirit. And then my phone rang.

     It was Joe's teacher. Taking a deep breath in, I wondered what in the world he could have done two days before the end of school. (See, I always fear the worst. That MY child has hurt someone else. That MY child has not done what he should do.) But no. This time, something ugly was done to him.

     All year long, Joe has waited for his yearbook. He loves going through them and remembering fun times with different teachers or students. It was finally time to sign with the usual greetings like H.A.G.S. (Have a good summer), See ya, You are cool, etc. But he noticed that when one of the students was writing in his book, there was a group gathered around. And they were laughing. What was being written was that he was weird, (something else that I don't want to repeat), and that she wanted to kill him. The other children were LAUGHING. Thank God for one who knew that it wasn't right and took it to the teacher.

     So here I am, staring at the picture of our dear Pope, remembering the ugliness of words said long ago, and experiencing the ugliness first hand with my child. Have we learned nothing? As his teacher and I cried together, and as my heart broke, the usual rush of emotions ran hot. Anger. Sadness. Empathy. Profound sorrow for a child who doesn't understand how words can wound. What had happened to her heart along the way? My mother heart was torn and wounded and weeping. For my son and for the offender.

     As I have processed this over the last couple of days, I agree with Tom that it has probably affected me more than it has Joe. After all, he got a new yearbook with new signatures of those friends that he wanted. School is over for the year. And he has forgiven her. Oh yes. When I really sat with him and processed the situation, he said, "But mommy. I DID forgive her. She said she was sorry and so I accepted it." We have always said that in order for forgiveness to happen, it has to be accepted. To him, it was simple. She did wrong. She said she was sorry. He accepted.

     I know that I need to let this go.... That grace needs to enter in. This is my prayer this week, for I am having more trouble than my child. This growing up stuff is harder for me than for him! I know that I cannot always be there to protect and defend. Life happens, things get said, and wounds happen. But maybe the greatest lesson learned is the beauty of forgiveness. Of healing.

     As I entered back into the exhibit, and looked at the beautiful pictures of our dear Pope in the Holy Land, I was struck with the power of forgiveness. The tour ended with the opportunity to write a prayer and to place it into a small reproduction of the Weeping Wall. The prayers are then taken to the Holy Land.  Tom and I took some extra time to pray. To allow the words that we had heard, the stories that we had experienced to work on our hearts. Leaving the tour hand in hand, I felt blessed. Although I knew that we were going to go home and face what had happened to Joe, I also knew that we were renewed.

     I am often amazed at how many times I am in the right place at a given moment. To be at the Blessings tour when I heard about Joe....well....it just fit. Past, present, and future blended together and were knit in such a way that I could both grieve and take comfort.

     Oh for continued grace... And as Pope John Paul II said,

“As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the world. This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to first be a blessing to one another.”
     May we all be a blessing to one another.


  1. Your son's words of forgiveness lead me to a better place. Please give Joe a hug from me and tell him it's just from someone who thinks he is special.

  2. Oh, Mary Jo, I'm sorry. My heart broke as a mother reading what you wrote and I imagined my tender-hearted little girl being hurt like that. What moved me more, though, were Joe's words. Children have such hearts. No wonder Jesus talks about us having faith "like a child." And as Joe exemplified, forgiveness and grace like a child.

  3. I've read through this one twice...heart aching for him...but so much for you as well.
    Makes me long for Heaven...when all these tears will be washed away...when none of this will matter.
    Praying for your heart Mary Jo and that you'll be able to see God's tender hand using this in your little guy's life...to make him more like Christ...more compassionate...more of all-the-things-that-really-matter.
    Still--my mama's-heart breaks for you (because I've been there)...

  4. My heart hurts for your family and especially for the children involved. How wonderful that Joe is so ready to forgive. That is a blessing and the result of all you have taught him in life. While these experiences hurt badly, I think it is ok to learn early in life how to deal with the reality of meanness in our culture. Joe is blessed to have a safe haven to come home to!

  5. I'm so sorry that this happened. Words really do hurt in spite of the 'sticks and stones' saying. Joe's ability to forgive is an example to us all.
    Hugs to you and Joe.


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