It happened about twenty years ago…
“The dang thing bit me!” Mark hollered, as he burst through the kitchen door. Turning to correct my seven-year-old for his harsh language, instead, I gasped. He held up his right hand. His palm was covered in blood and a red stripe ran down his forearm.
“What happened?” I asked.
“A squirrel bit me,” he announced, “and, I can prove it.”
I led him to the bathroom sink and grabbed the peroxide. As I began dousing the wound, Mark expressed concern that his “proof” was going down the drain and his brothers might not believe that he was attacked by a wild squirrel.
“The little bite marks will be proof enough.” I assured him.
As I washed and dressed his wound, Mark spoke of killing all squirrels to end their tyranny and spiteful attacks on people. Then, as suddenly as his arrival in my kitchen, he grew unexpectedly quiet.
“I guess, I can’t really blame the squirrel,” he said. “He was probably pretty scared when he woke up and saw me holding him… they aren’t really used to people, you know. He might have been upset about being shot out of the tree.”
“You did WHAT?” I asked in astonishment.
“Ooh yaaa… I shot him with Kenny’s BB gun. I attacked him first. So, I’m not mad anymore. It was my fault.”
Deciding the lecture stealing his brother’s BB gun could wait; I hugged my son and told him that I was proud of him for forgiving the squirrel.
The story, now told to my grandchildren, has become a lesson in forgiveness and accountability. They beg to hear it. And, when I need to stop thinking about my own pain; long enough to consider how someone else might have felt– I need to hear it, as well.
We can all identify with the little squirrel… carefree, innocent… suddenly knocked senseless by the unprovoked, thoughtless actions of another. Acting upon instinct or fear, he lashed out. His sharp little teeth endowed him with the power to enact a swift form of justice. The BB gun shooter perceived the action as blood-thirsty vengeance and prepared to strike back.
It could have been the beginning of feud, but it was not. Somebody decided to take responsibility for his actions. Someone said, “I’m not mad anymore. It was my fault.”
In my life there have been disagreements and even a few emotional wounds. Most often I see myself as the squirrel– minding my own business and innocent of any wrong doing. But if the truth be known, I have played both rolls in the scenario– I have been the BB-gun-shooter as often as I have been the squirrel.
Something to think about this week if you have half a notion to mend a few fences: maybe you could be the one to set things right, whether you are the BB-gun-shooter or the squirrel.