“Just a piece of string”

photo credit: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/06/the-what-and-why-and-how-of-bearing-a-testimony?lang=eng

Latter-day Saints have a service each first Sunday of the month called Fast and Testimony meeting.  The day before we fast two meals and give the cost, or more to the Fast Offering fund.  Then in place of a regular church service we have a time when whoever wishes to may stand and bear testimony to how the gospel and God have helped their lives.  Yesterday was Testimony meeting for September.

One young member, about 10 or 11 years old.  Stood and bore a beautiful testimony of how forgiveness helps her.  She come from a loving, supportive family.  They sit reasonably well behaved during church and I have seen her help with younger sibling.  So, at first glance one wonders what she has to forgive.  Well, she’s the oldest of four girls and as the second oldest of five girls, I can relate.  She has three younger sisters!

She stated that forgiving someone makes her feel good.  That she thinks it is easy and then finds out it can be hard.  She said, “I think sometimes, we say we forgive, but do we really?  I have to forgive my sisters and I have to forgive my friends, and I have to forgive myself.”

photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/yarn-colors/

The story goes that one day, a soldier traveling between battles, found himself in a small town.  He was jauntily strolling the streets when he saw a length of colorful string on the sidewalk.  He picked it up and put it into his pocket thinking, perhaps I can use this, it might bring me luck.  Later that day, as the soldier was enjoying a simple but delicious dinner, he was accosted by the local constabulary, arrested for theft and taken to jail.  It seems a girl had lost her brightly colored purse and someone had seen the soldier pick up a brightly colored object and place it into his pocket.

Try as he might, even by producing the string, the soldier could not convince the suspicious folk he was not the thief.  Some days later, the purse was found and the soldier was unceremoniously released.

Feeling that he was justly insulted for being unjustly condemned, he tried to obtain an apology from the locals, to no avail.  Finally, he left town but told his tale of woe to everyone he encountered, without ceasing.  In fact, his last mortal words were, “a piece of string, it was just a piece of string.”

I looked for a picture of forgiveness and found a quote, lots of them.   One site listed 2461 quotes tagged as forgiveness.  Obviously more people than my young church sister think that forgiveness is important.

Someone, perhaps the great philosopher Anonymous wrote, “To heal a wound you need to stop touching it.”  As a nurse, I understand that.  Even a simple cut can become infected and enlarged if not treated properly and then left alone to heal.  A small scab may become an ugly scar if repeatedly ripped off before it falls on its own.  How many emotional wounds do we keep touching?

My young church sister asked the question, “I think sometimes, we say we forgive, but do we really?”  I’m asking what if?

What if the leaders on both sides of the conflict in ___pick a place____ decided to take Oscar Wilde’s advice, “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much?”  Well, that’s pretty obvious, ISIS would simply be an old Egyptian goddess (a peaceful one at that), and the newspaper would be a lot thinner.

What if then, if you and I forgave our sisters, brothers, friends, parents, children, co-workers, idiots on the road or in Congress, would we even have the inclination to make enemies?

Above all, what if we forgave ourselves?

The Hill

I lived from age 6 months to 6 years in Blackfoot, a small Southeastern Idaho town, named in honor of one of the local Native American tribes.  The area is still mostly agricultural, Spud country, home of the best potato in the world, the Idaho Russet.  Those lovely oblong tubers grow fabulously in the volcanic loam.  From 15,000 to 2,000 years ago, Southeastern Idaho was home to volcanic activity.  Craters of the Moon National Park and two buttes are visible reminders.  The rest of the story is in the wonderfully loose soil that grows practically anything that’s planted in it.

After we moved to Shelley, I remember many times driving through higher than our car walls of lava as we went to dentist appointments in Blackfoot.  The area was the southeast tip of a flow called “Hell’s Half Acre” and it wasn’t hard to imagine the devil sitting on top, laughing at the motorists below.  Well, somebody got the bright (actually good) idea to put a set of very nice rest stops with nature trails right there.  They needed rock for concrete and hey, there was all this lava.  So now that “Hell” has been reformed, the devil has moved elsewhere.

The Hill

September, 1960

“Whee,” I run up the hill as fast as my three-year-old legs will carry me.  At the top, I splat myself down for the twenty-seventeenth time.  Instead of rolling down, this time I flatten on my belly and kick my feet.  Slowly I feel one smooth, emerald blade of the lush yard carpet my dad so carefully waters, mows, fertilizes and treats with that long, brown, stinky weed-killer-on-a-wire block.

My golden capped baby sister laughs.  I look across the narrow side yard to where she sits with our mother.  Mom picks a small yellow flower from the color-splotched strip of garden next to the Hortin’s tall, white cinderblock fence.  She holds it up to Dorothy’s button nose to sniff.  It’s my turn to laugh as Dorothy’s chubby hand reaches for the bloom and her mouth opens wide.

“No, you don’t smell with your mouth, silly,” I say and roll down the cool slope.

Once at the bottom I sit and pick green bits out of my strawberry blond strands.  I look around and decide to watch a Daddy-long-legs climb up the pink wood siding of our two bedroom, neat-as-a-pin, one story house.  If he makes it to the white edge of the black roof, he might get eaten by the bird sitting there.

“Hey, race you,” my soon to be five big sister calls.  Her brunette bob pokes around the back corner of the house.

I bounce up, “okay.”

We run past the Snow White apple tree, red apples on one side, green on the other, over to our barbecue that looks like a monument.  I catch my breath in front of the stout, iron grill and run my hand over the rough brown brick trying unsuccessfully to reach the top.  I scan the yard for a good course to run.  We could go back to the apple, left to the purple plum and straight to the sandbox.  Then we could go left again along the Jensen’s wooden fence, past the lilac bush with its tangle of trunks to the peonies by the back fence.  I’m thinking that as long as we go that far, we might as well keep going past the gate and weave through the yellowing corn stocks in the vegetable patch.  Why, I can run so fast, I could even jump over all the bumpy dark green Hubbard squashes I can hardly pick up, fly over to the one branch of the Hortin’s apple tree that slumps over the fence, pick one of those golden beauties and still beat Diana back.

But, she wants to run to the hill.  Oh well.  She lines up with the barbecue’s stick out side with more shelves than cubby holes.  I stand in front of the other.

“On your mark, get set, go!”

I speed up the slope again with all my tired might.  I just barely come in second.

July 2009

On my way home from visiting my two youngest sisters, I find a tiny house in a small Idaho town.  It’s all peeling paint white now.  I stop in front.  It looks like no one is home.  That’s good because, “hi, I used to live here and want to roll down your hill,” seems more than lame.  There are bicycles not bushes on the front porch.  Bottles line the living room windowsill.  The curtains behind them are crooked and gaping.  The sandbox is filled with unruly grass.  I inch the car forward until I see a crumbling, nondescript, brick structure stuffed with—stuff.  I shake my head and then see a small slope in the yellow-green, dirt patched, narrow side lawn.  It is a 10 inch drop, maybe, if that much, maybe less.  I tell myself, “that hill shrunk.”

I put the car in gear again and drive home to Utah.