Human Nature Nuggets

Unlike sheer instinct, human nature involves individual thought as to how we should handle or improve various situations. As homo sapiens, we never know what will happen as a result, but each of us tries by doing what we think is the best solution. Here are some examples…

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Location: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

I am a writer at heart, a proofreader by trade, but without a soul if it were not for the nuthatches crawling down my trees, the robins, chickadees, cardinals, and yes, the much-maligned jibbering starlings that create their own unique concerts. I have wildflowers and perennials squeezed into my front and back yards and along the curb of my house in the city. My greatest job: I was a reporter for a locally-based newspaper, where I wrote human interest and news articles, but now I am a freelance writer, both online and in print. See MY ONLINE ARTICLES on how to ATTRACT BIRDS and BUTTERFLIES, and the HEALTHIEST NATURAL FOODS at my contributor page

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

To What Extent Are We Truly Able to Forgive?

Most of us consider ourselves forgiving people; above holding a grudge, let alone seeking revenge. But what if someone killed your spouse or child, or a parent or close friend? Would you then be able to forgive that person? As easy as it is to say for us to say whether we would or would not now, we can never truly know until it happens, and may we never be put to the test.

I ran across an article entitled “The Courage to Act,” written by Mike Billington, the editor of the Dodge Nature Center’s The Nature of Things publication, in their Winter/Spring edition. Besides being editor of the publication, Mike is a photographer and naturalist at the Dodge Nature Center in St. Paul, MN. The article affected me so much, I had to share it with you.

In “The Courage to Act,” Mike explained how years ago, when his “homestay mother” Violet and her three youngest sons were returning home from a Christmas parade, she decided to walk home and do some errands on the way. They were crossing the street in late afternoon, when a car failed to turn at the bend of the road. It crossed over two lanes of traffic and struck her and one of her sons. Somehow, she had managed to push the other two out of the way. The one who was struck only received minor injuries, but Violet passed away several hours later at the hospital.

Mike and Violet’s family later learned that the driver was an illegal immigrant driving without a license, spoke little to no English, and should never have been driving. Apparently eyewitnesses at the scene had stopped him from fleeing. According to Mike, the man was taken in by the police, and later faced criminal charges and deportation. At the time, that was the last Mike thought about him.

Then, several months ago when he returned to Minnesota, Mike received a national News Zealand newspaper clipping in the mail. The clipping had a picture of what remained of his “homestay family”—his homestay father Tracy, and the three sons. The article itself reported how Tracy had stood up before the judge and asked for clemency for the man who was responsible for the death of his wife, Violet.

To quote Mike: “In the months after Violet’s death, Tracy had heard that the family of the man driving the car had been devastated, and that their son had been riddled with guilt and depression. He realized that two lives had been lost that day—two families had been shattered. Through the pain and suffering from grieving for his wife, Tracy decided that for there to be justice, there must be understanding between their two cultures and that he must take the time to hear the man’s story.” Tracy met the man face to face.

In his article, Mike wrote, “The man’s name was Tomasi Tabokaai, a twenty-six year old from the Polynesian island of Kiribati, just north of Fiji in the South Pacific. The night before the accident he had been up late at a family function. Since he was applying for citizenship and did not want to do anything to jeopardize it, he awoke before dawn with the rest of his family and went to work picking asparagus at a nearby farm. Late in the afternoon he headed home. Little sleep and exhaustion from the day’s long work caught up with him and he fell asleep at the wheel. After the accident, overcome by shock, he did indeed leave his vehicle, but was kept at the scene by bystanders.

“As Tomasi was telling his story,” Mike continued, “Tracy could see in his eyes deep remorse and absolute regret. He too was a man broken, suffering, plagued by nightmares whose life seemed almost over. In the suffering they both shared and mutual understanding he found, Tracy came to realize how easy it could have been for anyone to be in those shoes, and that what had happened had truly been an accident. An accident that not only took the life of his wife, but was also taking the life of this young man. In court, Tracy stood before the judge and against the wishes of many in his family asked for clemency. He said, “On behalf of my wife I forgive him. I know Violet is pleased that I have it in my heart to forgive.”

Mike ended his article by saying, “When I talked with Tracy about all that had happened, I was humbled by his ability to look beyond his own grief and do what was right, even in the face of alienating some of his own family. His convictions would have it no other way. Every day, each of us faces our own battles between what is comfortable and our convictions. The question is, how long are we going to allow the fear of the uncomfortable stop us from finding the courage to act? We must awaken, stand up and be counted. We must find the courage to take responsibility for ourselves, our families, and the environments in which we live.”

And so, once again I pose this question to you. Hopefully no occasion will arise to test our convictions, but: If some person killed someone who was dear to you, who made your life worth living, would you be able to forgive? As for myself, after reading Mike’s article, I think it would depend on the circumstances.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

A marvellous account. Some say that you have to forgive, at least on some level, in order not to harm your own life. sadly, I think that few can do this.

This is a particularly appropriate post for this season.

12/15/2005 7:07 AM  
Blogger madcapmum said...

That's an amazing story. Those circumstances certainly do make all the difference.

Thanks for dropping by my site. I was reading your profile, and you're from St. Paul Minn, and I'm wondering if you're familiar with the Sand Creek Almanack blog by Deb? There's a link to it on my sidebar if you're interested. She focusses mostly on her life in the country, local environmental issues, local flora and fauna, etc.

Nice to meet you!

12/15/2005 8:30 AM  
Blogger Bonita said...

Darlene, thanks for stopping by my site yesterday.

I'll agree with Anvilcloud - not until we are in that event can we understand the inherent challenges for our own spiritual growth, which is what forgiveness is all about.

12/15/2005 12:47 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

So glad you all appreciated this; I figured you would. No, Madcapmum, I never knew about her site. Thanks so much for letting me know. I'll have to go visit her; sounds like I'd love it. I'll be visiting your site shortly to take advantage of your sidebar. Nice to meet you, too! But I have to let all of you know, I love all of your sites, or I wouldn't have gone there in the first place. They all provide stimulating food for thought.

12/15/2005 7:03 PM  
Blogger I_Wonder said...


I think it would depend on the circumstances. I think that if something like this happened to me, I would hope that it would be under circumstances that begged forgiveness. Forgiving an accident as the article described would bring a sense of relief. Losing a loved one to an act committed by a sadistic and remorseless killer would be horrible. I'm not certain I would know how to forgive in that situation.

12/15/2005 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Theresa said...

That is a wonderful story. Honestly, I don't think I could forgive, even though I know that not forgiving would be an equally heavy burden.

12/18/2005 7:21 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

I believe that, in a peculiar way, we tend to 'enjoy' our grudges. Of course this is a dubious 'pleasure' for it nearly always backfires on us and leaves us feeling depressed and powerless.
Most people understand that it is better to forgive but, in practice, not many are able to do so.
I have had problems forgiving people too - it is so much easier to forgive if the wrongdoer expresses some remorse!

12/23/2005 3:06 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Rob, you brought up a great point that I didn't think of: grudges! And yes, in a particular way we do tend to "enjoy" them. Bickering comes to mind, however; not the deep-seated resentment one would feel under different circumstances, such as what Mike related, or in cases where someone close to us was murdered.

I think we tend to feel depressed and powerless in either instance; whether it's the "grudge" kind or worse. With grudges, however, I think someone on one of the "sides" is more willing to try to patch things up, and it's easier to do so.

And in any circumstances, it's easier to forgive if someone expresses at least some remorse.

Appreciate your input. Made me think even more!

12/23/2005 5:00 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Thanks for that beautiful story. I believe that forgiving is something we must do regardless of how we feel. Or if we wait until we feel like it, we may never get around to it. Some things I have forgiven over and over, making a conscious act of forgiveness while ignoring my feelings, and gradually the pain dimishes and true feelings of forgiveness come.

Only a few weeks ago, I realized with surprise that I truly forgive someone who I had spent years in anger about, and years working on forgiveness. In fact, he died in 1999 so I was working on this forgiveness even after his death! It just came to me that I truly forgive him, a feeling of complete peace and release, after a long time (thirty years).

Then there is the residue .. forgiving opens my eyes to how I too have hurt others, not even realizing it, and I must forgive myself.

Thanks for the story. I love your new blog!



12/26/2005 8:01 AM  

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