Friday, August 08, 2008

Forgiveness

Summer's only a little more than half over and already I've failed to keep two appointments that I had made. This is as many appointments as I had forgotten in the previous decade -- maybe longer.

The first missed appointment was early in July, when I showed up late for a christening service after having been away at a funeral in Saskatchewan. I was tired after the long drive home and when I got up the next morning, I was so focused on driving up to my cottage, where my family was waiting, that I didn't remember that I had promised to conduct a christening service at one of the churches near my summer home. It was Saturday, which made it easier to forget, since christenings usually occur within the Sunday morning service. The proud parents tracked me down, so the service went ahead -- three hours late. They accommodated the change by having their picnic celebration before, rather than after the ceremony, no doubt fussing to keep the children's clothes free of condiments! They were understanding and accommodating but I felt embarrassed, not to mention sorry for the inconvenience I had caused. They were freely forgiving without having said as much out loud.

Then yesterday, I failed to show up to greet a gaggle of Icelandic tourists who were visiting Winnipeg in the aftermath of √ćslendingadagurinn, the annual Icelandic Festival of Manitoba. The plan had been that I would walk with them from the Manitoba Museum to The Forks, showing them the site of the first √ćslendingadagurinn, held in 1890, and then proceeding to the site where Shanty Town once stood, the first neighbourhood occupied by Icelandic immigrants in the city. Along the way, I was to regale them with tales from the religious life of the immigrants. But I didn't appear at the appointed time, so, after waiting a while, they went on without me. This time I had awakened feeling under the weather after a late night before. (I was writing until the wee hours of the morning, not drinking as your overactive imagination might have guessed! My life is mostly pretty dull by today's standards.) Anyway, I didn't feel too well when I got up, so I went back to bed without checking my calendar and slept the day away. It didn't help that I had been scheduled to be on vacation this week, so my appointment book was far from reach ... and even farther from my mind. The tour leader tried rousing me on my cell phone but the ringer was off! This time, I discovered my oversight too late to correct matters. I dashed off a quick email before breakfast this morning and later called the tour organizer, apologizing profusely because I felt genuinely terrible about the whole matter. She understood the situation and said, "We forgive you."

"We forgive you?" I hadn't even asked but it was nice to know. We live in a pretty unforgiving culture, so her words were especially comforting and reassuring when I was feeling so badly. It's not that it hadn't mattered, it's just that I didn't need to keep flogging myself about it. And when she asked me if I would meet next year's tour group for the same reason, I knew she really meant it. I had been forgiven! And I will be there next time.

Now I just need to work on forgiving myself. Forgiveness of oneself was described by A. Powell Davies as "the forgiveness that comes hardest." I know what he means: it requires genuine humility and an acknowledgment of my limitations and shortcomings. I've been humbled twice this summer and I've been twice forgiven. I'm grateful ... and still a little embarrassed!