When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher did three things that I may never forget. To save him embarrassment we’ll call him Mr. Richmond. He was a nice enough guy but, I didn’t really like his class. Mainly because of two things. The first reason was he would randomly call on different students to read, and I was a terrible reader.
I could do better though if I had read it to myself first, so while someone else was reading a paragraph, I would read the next one to myself in case he called my name. As you can probably guess, I didn’t learn much in History or Reading that year.
The second reason I didn’t like his class was because of two specific incidents, again, involving reading. One took place in History class and the other in Reading class. In Reading there was a story about a cat named Gato. That’s the Spanish word for CAT if you didn’t already know. Well, when we started reading about Gato, Mr. Richmond called him Gaytoe. I was shy but, I mustered up enough courage to tell him that the cat’s name was Gato. I knew because I had seen it on Public Television, either on Sesame Street or the Electric Company.
Well, he didn’t believe me. He said, “Well, we’ll call him GayToe.” I hated calling him that because I knew it was the wrong pronunciation, but when it was my turn to read I reluctantly said, GayToe.
Another similar incident happened later in history class. We were reading a story about a native American Indian named Sequoya. Well once again I knew how to pronounce the name and I told Mr Richmond, but again, he didn’t believe me. He said, “Well, we’ll say SaJawa. Ugghhh!
I was taught to respect my elders and people in authority, so I went along with him, and once again pronounced another name wrong.
Well, a while later my grandmother bought me a basketball. I don’t remember how much it cost but I know she didn’t have much money and that made it even more special to me.
Well, low and behold, the day came when I wanted to take it to school. I wanted to put my name on it but we didn’t have magic markers or any way to mark it at all really, but I had an idea. I actually took a knife and carved my initials into the ball, like carving them into a tree, and I headed off to school to show off my basketball.
Well, two older boys from a higher grade, who were bigger, and taller than me, took my ball at break and wouldn’t give it back. I told Mr. Richmond and he called them in. I told him I could prove it was my ball by my initials carved into it.
One of the boys said the ball belonged to the other boy and the initials meant something else. Guess what. Mr. Richmond believed them, and once again, he didn’t believe me.
I was really angry at him. I was angry for years. He had no respect for me. He never believed anything I said and he gave my basketball away.
Finally we graduated and went on to high-school, but I never forgot it although my anger toward him wasn’t as strong. When I would see him I would say, “hi,” and keep walking. I don’t think he actually remembered me, but I sure remembered him.
Even after I became a Christian, I was still a little angry at him. Ever time I saw him it brought back those memories. I wanted to go up to him and tell him he had made a mistake in giving MY basketball to those two lying thieves and say, “You owe me a basketball.” I never did though. I knew I shouldn’t. I knew I needed to let it go. I knew Jesus said that if we don’t forgive people for wrongs they have done to us, then God won’t forgive us for wrongs we do. (Matthew 6:15)
Mr. Richmond was not the only one I needed to forgive. I had others I had been withholding forgiveness from. I knew I needed to forgive them, but I didn’t think all of them deserved it. I guess I just wanted to hold on to my anger for a little while longer.
I also used to think that by forgiving someone you were saying what they did was okay. I thought that by forgiving them, I would have to repair the relationships and put myself back into the same situation again. That’s actually what some people teach and I think this teaching is why so many refuse to forgive. I started studying forgiveness and found out that the Bible doesn’t say that at all. Forgiveness is not even for the other person. You can actually forgive someone without them ever asking for forgiveness, or even knowing you have forgiven them.
When we have something against someone, we are the ones suffering. Most of the time they have moved on with their lives and aren’t even thinking about us ,or what they did. Some times people are not even aware they have hurt us. When we forgive, it frees us from bondage, and we can be forgiven by God for our sins.
When I really understood forgiveness, I was able to truly forgive all those who had hurt me, including Mr. Richmond. What a wonderful feeling it is to be free from that burden.
The Bible doesn’t actually say “Forgive and Forget.” When we truly forgive we may still remember the wrong, but we no longer hold it against that person, nor bring it up to them again.
As I said in the beginning, I may never forget what happened, but I know Mr. Richmond did the right thing. He had two witnesses against one, and I probably would have done the same thing, if I had been in his shoes. So, Mr. Richmond, I forgive you.
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