During this journey through life, we are all bound to eventually cross our paths with someone who wrong or deeply hurts us in some way, could be through words or actions, intentionally or unintentionally.
Forgiveness is easier said than done, when you are bruised inside. So what do we do when we face those same people again? Should we hold onto the hurt, payback in the same coin, behave the way they behaved or whatever else?
Here is the true story of a person I happen to know and deeply admire. He is a young family man, and just like most of us, is riding on the joys and worries that comes along with that. If you were to look at him, you wouldn’t see anything special, just one ordinary face in this sea of humanity. But behind this young and seemingly carefree face lies an old soul that continues to amaze me.
He soon realized that he had bitten more than he could chew. The bags carrying vegetables were too heavy for his small 11-year-old frame. On his way back from the market, he would stop every few steps to rub the red angry marks on his hands, to get some blood flowing. It was then that he saw his elderly uncle coming back from his morning walk. He had recently moved to the city and taken a house next door.
If the family grapevine was to be believed, he was a person known to be somewhat “compassionately challenged”. On the surface, he did seem aloof and reserved, but then the boy didn’t know him well yet. The uncle walked along, often stopped to chide him to not be a sissy and hasten up but not once offered to share the load. On reaching home, when boy’s dad enquired about his long face, he couldn’t help but blurt out the whole incident questioning if such behaviour suits an elder of the family.
Later that day when uncle visited home, boy’s dad gently asked him about the incident. Uncle lost his cool. He bellowed at the top of his voice calling the boy names and as soon as the boy entered the room, a loud resounding slap landed on his face. Sudden silence engulfed the whole house. No one raised voices on kids here, let alone raising a hand. A growing boy, perhaps too proud to cry in front of his family, he quietly moved out of the room. But his muffled sobs could be heard for a long time.
Few hours later, a delivery person came and left heavy items outside the uncle’s door. With no one around, uncle was struggling badly to move them inside his house when the boy approached and quietly started helping him move all the stuff. Having watched the whole incident from afar, his perplexed dad called him and asked, “With what happened in the morning, I didn’t think I’ll see you going there for a while. What happened ?”
The boy just shrugged his shoulders and replied, “ It’s nothing dad. He did what he had to and I did what I had to.”
Simple words yet utterly profound.
His dad pulled him close, hugged him and in a voice choking with emotion said, “ What you just said and did at such a young age, takes others lifetimes to learn.mYou have no idea how proud you made me today.”
But the story doesn’t end here and I wish I could say that the uncle had a change of heart and they lived happily ever after. In reality, that was never to be.
Years later, the boy held the same hands that once slapped him, now wrinkled, shaking and weak. He held them tight, guiding them for years through labyrinth of life. His short vacations to his hometown were spend running endless, thankless errands where no one even bothered to ask if he needed a glass of water, perhaps some rest or time for himself. Well there is so much to be done and he can always rest later, was the default retort.
No, he was neither meek nor weak and didn’t shy away from expressing his views when required. He simply kept doing what he felt he had to.
When uncle passed on, and aunt now destitute and alone had nowhere to go, he asked her to move in with his family. But it was no easy feat. Been abused and controlled all her life by her husband, as a text book example of philosophy of Paulo Freire, the oppressed had herself slowly morphed into the oppressor.
But this was a start of a beautiful phase. He tried to fulfil all her long-cherished desires, be it reestablishing contact with her long cut-off family or visiting her native village. She thrived in all this attention and care. And six years back, when a stroke left her bedridden forever, he along with his equally kind wife, took care of her through years of bed sores, incontinence and memory loss.
Every evening after coming back from office, he sat by her side asking about her day, feeding her tea one spoon at a time, coaxing her to eat one more bite or just cracked silly jokes like about her single remaining tooth and what all she could still eat with it… A sugarcane perhaps. And they laughed in abandon. No one knew how much she understood, but lucid or not, she always smiled when he was around and this happened till the day she passed away peacefully a few months back, with him by her side, holding her hand till the very end.
He never complained of the financial burden, sleepless nights, shelved professional opportunities, missed family gatherings, cut short vacations or the inconvenience of putting his young family through it. He was never thanked for it either, but he simply kept doing it because that’s what he had to.
This is not a one-off incident but his general attitude towards life, a living breathing philosophy. His life story is occasionally revealed in bits and pieces, here and there, sometimes through a blood stained shirt while rushing an accident victim to hospital, sometimes by a stranger on street profusely thanking for getting his son a job and many such more.
Sometimes his dad gently reprimands him to get some rest and find some time to read scriptures. As always he smiles and says, “Tomorrow, dad, for sure,” and then rushes off.
May be tomorrow he will sit and read the scriptures, perhaps understand their meaning too, but today he is busy following them… by simply doing what he has to.
Encompassing the spirit, here is a beautiful poem written by Dr Kent M Keith. It is frequently attributed to Mother Teresa as she had posted it on her wall:
The Final Analysis
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is all between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.