By Jerry Harpt
Forty-three years ago seems like a long time to remember the name of a mere acquaintance. I have duly forgotten the name of an old lady who was a customer on my paper route when I was a twelve-year-old boy in Marinette, Wisconsin back in 1954. Yet it seems like just yesterday that she taught me a lesson in forgiveness that I can only hope to pass on to someone else someday.
On a mindless Saturday afternoon, a friend and I were throwing rocks onto the roof of the old lady’s house from a secluded spot in her backyard. The object of our play was to observe how the rocks changed to missiles as they rolled to the roof’s edge and shot out into the yard like comets falling from the sky.
I found myself a perfectly smooth rock and sent it for a ride. The stone was too smooth, however, so it slipped from my hand as I let it go and headed straight for a small window on the old lady’s back porch. At the sound of fractured glass, we took off from the old lady’s yard faster than any of our missiles flew off her roof.
I was too scared about getting caught that first night to be concerned about the old lady with the broken porch window. However, a few days later, when I was sure that I hadn’t been discovered, I started to feel guilty for her misfortune. She still greeted me with a smile each day when I gave her the paper, but I was no longer able to act comfortable in her presence.
I made up my mind that I would save my paper delivery money, and in three weeks I had the seven dollars that I calculated would cover the cost of her window. I put the money in an envelope with a note explaining that I was sorry for breaking her window and hoped that the seven dollars would cover the cost for repairing it.
I waited until dark, snuck up to the old lady’s house, and put the envelope of retribution through the letter slot in her door. My soul felt redeemed and I couldn’t wait for the freedom of, once again, looking straight into the old lady’s eyes.
The next day, I handed the old lady her paper and was able to return the warm smile that I was receiving from her. She thanked me for the paper and said, “Here, I have something for you.” It was a bag of cookies. I thanked her and proceeded to eat the cookies as I continued my route.
After several cookies, I felt an envelope and pulled it out of the bag. When I opened the envelope, I was stunned. Inside was the seven dollars and a short note that said, “I’m proud of you.”