41: Learning to Forgive

41: Learning to Forgive

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Learning to Forgive

Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.

~Charles R. Swindoll

The flashing lights of the patrol car came out of nowhere. With my heart racing, I pulled over to the side of the road. I had just gotten my driver’s license earlier that year. And now, a ticket!

I decided not to tell Mom what I had done. I would save my lunch money for the next few weeks and pay the fine myself. That way I could keep driving and not be grounded.

The next week I came in from school and, propped on my dresser, was a letter addressed To the Parents of Darlene Carpenter. The envelope was already opened, so I slid the letter out. It explained to my parents that I had received a ticket at 8:15, Sunday night, for not stopping at a stop sign near Dallas Love Field Airport.

My hands were shaking. 8:15. Sunday night. I was at church at 8:15, Sunday night. Every Sunday night. I sat ten pews behind Mother and Dad. How was I going to explain this? I was afraid to come out of my bedroom because I knew Mom had already read the letter.

I changed out of my school clothes, did my homework, straightened up my room. I formed all kinds of lies in my mind to explain how they sent the letter to the wrong address. I kept listening for her footsteps coming down the hallway to my door. I heard my dad come in from work. I was sure she was telling him, and they both would appear at my door any second with some form of punishment.

My sister came in from work, and my little brother came in from playing outside. Still, no word from Mom. In a few minutes I heard Mom calling us for dinner. I reluctantly left the safety of my bedroom. I wasn’t hungry, but I forced food down. I couldn’t look at Mom. When dinner was over, I began cleaning off the table. Mom instructed me to wash and dry the dishes as she walked out of the kitchen.

Okay, I thought, she’s going to wait until bedtime to give me my punishment.

To my surprise, Mom said nothing about the ticket that night or the following week. The letter disappeared off my dresser. I tiptoed around the house for the next few weeks. I did my chores plus anything else I could find to do to help Mom. My transgression was never discussed, and I finally got past my fear.

Years later I sat at Mom’s kitchen table and asked if she remembered me getting a ticket when I was sixteen. She said she did, and I asked why she never punished me.

“Oh, it was enough watching you punish yourself,” she replied.

I looked up and saw the laughter in her eyes.

“You know where I went that night?” I asked.

“No, but I bet you remember,” came her answer.

“I went to see Elvis. They said on the radio that he was flying into Dallas Love Field at 7:30. I told my friend at church, and we decided to sneak out as soon as church started. If we went straight to the airport, watched him get off the plane, and went straight back to church, we could just make it before the last Amen. When I saw the stop sign, I looked up and down the streets. No cars in sight anywhere. I kept going. I don’t know where that policeman was hiding. The sad part is that Elvis had come and gone by the time we got to the airport.”

Mom laughed and asked me if it was worth it. I thought for a moment and then said,

“Well, at the time, I was so scared that I didn’t think so. But, looking back, I realize that I learned a lot that week.”

She stopped stirring the beans on the stove, and with spoon still in hand, asked what I learned.

“I learned what forgiveness is. I know you didn’t approve of me going. But, you forgave me for going without me even asking you to. I learned to do what’s right. Not because of my fear of you, but because of my love for you. I wanted you to be proud of me again.”

Mom smiled. Her big brown eyes misted up. She had done her job as a mother.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to do what’s right even when no one is watching.

~Darlene Carpenter Herring

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