An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Lesson from a Rock Star

The other night I was watching an interview with Steven Tyler, lead singer for Aerosmith. Once upon a time (and not too long ago, either) I actually attended an Aerosmith concert, so it was interesting to hear what he had to say.

He talked about drugs, women, drugs, rock music, alcohol and, yes, drugs. He spoke about the many times he had a falling out with his children, his family, his bandmates. Then he spoke about forgiveness.

"The answer to everything in life, is forgiveness," he said. "Everything."

Everything? It got me thinking. What about love? Surely love could also be the answer to everything. But then I realized how even with those you love dearly, there can still be pain and hurt which can only be healed through forgiveness; in fact, it is the act of extending forgiveness, or of being the recipient of it, which actually leads the way to an even greater love.

God showed us this when he sent his only son to us ... a son who not only showed us how to love, but accepted death on a cross to show us how to forgive and be forgiven.

And as always when the topic of forgiveness comes up, I thought of Amanda.

Amanda and her family used to be our immediate neighbors. She was originally from England and, while she could be charming and witty, she also had a petty and vindictive side. I never saw her truly happy; rather, she always seemed to be in a battle with someone, whether it was the moving company who scratched her furniture, or the kids two houses down who scattered her pine straw when their soccer ball accidentally landed in her yard. Since we were both home during the day, she would often come over just to tell me about her latest imbroglio. I suppose it was only a matter of time before we were targeted.

One day the boys and some friends were playing in our yard when they abruptly came indoors. They were unusually quiet, so I knew something had happened. Evidently, Amanda had come over to tell them how she didn't appreciate them making fun of her and demanded that they stop.

Now, I had the windows opened and here's what the boys were doing: using an old video camera, they were holding pretend American Idol auditions in which they all took turns being Simon Cowell ... British accent and all.

I immediately called her, explained the misunderstanding, and assured her that they were not being disrespectful. They were being Simon Cowell! They were playing American Idol! She wasn't amused.

Flash forward a couple of months to Thanksgiving day when we had relatives visiting from Italy. It was around three in the afternoon, families were out walking off their dinners, and we decided to have a wiffle ball game in the cul-de-sac. Some neighbors from down the street even joined in. We were having such a wonderful time until Amanda stuck her head out the door and yelled for us all to take the game somewhere else because we were disturbing their meal.

We were a little taken aback at her rudeness (the street, after all, was public domain), and we were embarassed (nice impression for our relatives), but we obligingly moved the game to our backyard.

Eventually, we heard that they would soon be moving to New Jersey. A month before their departure, I saw Amanda sitting on her front steps and walked over to say hello. There was an awkward moment when she just stared at me ... and then, from out of the blue, she launched into a verbal attack the likes of which I have never experienced. She ranted against me, my husband, our boys, their school, our church ... everything. Then she stomped into her house before I had a chance to say a single word.

There are many kinds of tears, and over the next few days I think I shed most of them: tears of frustration because I didn't have a chance to defend myself; tears of anger for some of the things she said about my family; tears of disbelief because, really, how dare she?; and tears of remorse because I almost hated her and here it was Holy Week and my heart was not in a good place.

But something happened Easter Sunday morning. Sitting in our family room watching the boys dig into their Easter baskets, and later during Mass, I felt the gift of forgiveness. Suddenly, it didn't even matter anymore who was wrong or right, only that forgiveness was the means to make me feel whole again.

The next day I saw Amanda walk out the front door, retrieve her mail from the mailbox, and go back inside her house. I immediately walked over. Truthfully, I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to say, but I knew that the first step on that road to forgiveness - and ultimately to healing - would have to come from me.

I rang her doorbell and waited.

And waited.

Nothing. To this day I still cringe at how that made me feel, but watching Steven Tyler's interview, with his litany of past mistakes, I was reminded how life is sometimes -- very often, in fact -- messy. But for him, forgiveness was the answer, and I think he might be right. At the very least, forgiveness is the beginning of something which can only lead to wonderful things.

I really wished Amanda had answered her door.


Anonymous said...

It hurts my heart that someone treated you that way!! You are a much better person than I am!


Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

Since forgiveness is something you grant, so to speak, it's not necessary for the other person to be involved in the process or even know. You can forgive her and be relived of so much, even as she continues to wreck havoc on her newest neighborhood.

Harboring hurt only hurts the hurting, it does nothing to the perpetrator. Letting it go is freedom!

tiziana said...

Penso che perdonare sia molto più difficile di amare.
Amare è bello, spontaneo, porta gioia ed allegria, ma perdonare è una delle cose più faticose e per questo ci vuole un gran cuore.
Non so se riuscirei a perdonare una persona che per un banale motivo offende la mia famiglia.
Ma tu sei molto più brava di me, ed è anche per questo che ti ammiro e ti voglio bene.
Questa signora Amanda mi fa davvero pena, perchè non sa quanto è fortunata ad avere, come vicini di casa, una famiglia così bella e come cambierebbe in meglio la sua vita con un semplice sorriso.
Grazie Maria, per la lezione che mi hai dato.
PS: Mamma mia che faccia ha Steven Tyler...penso che abbia tante cose da farsi perdonare.
Se i tuoi ragazzi vogliono cantare nel mio giardino Simon Cowell con l'accento British, li accoglierò a braccia aperte.

Ua said...

It's hard to step back and get perspective in situations like these. But you can be assured that, while YOU are a person secure in your life and your faith, that woman clearly is NOT. I hope her life has gotten better, wherever she is!

Lisa said...

And heaven is the place where everyone forgives without wanting or needing forgiveness for themselves.

Such a wonderful, thought-filled post. Thanks, Bia!

Sarah said...

This is a beautiful reflection. Thank you for sharing. I'm praying for Amanda now too; it sounds like she must have some pretty deep wounds to face the world in that way.