As we all know, in addition to our most joyous moments, there are also those tough times, times that sometimes occur when we author our own misfortune and other times when the actions of others adversely impact us.
When our difficult times are, indeed, caused by someone else, we’re faced with what may very well be the single toughest thing we’re ever asked to do, and that is to forgive. Sure, so many when reciting The Lord’s Prayer routinely say the words, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But, as far as putting that promise into motion, well, for many, that’s another story.
I’ve seen grudges against others last for inordinately long periods of time. We’re not talking days, weeks or even months, rather years.
So, in an effort maybe to inspire all of us to forgive more easily, I thought I’d share a story I read a while back that happened in Ireland some years ago during a most difficult time in that country’s history. I saw the story “Forgiveness Changes the Future,” by Richard Moore, in the magazine Columbia. As many of you do, I’m guessing when reading newspapers and magazines, I read the first paragraph of the story, the reading equivalent of dipping some toes in the water, to see if I wanted to invest the time it would take to read the entire piece. Once I saw that the story had taken place in a city in Northern Ireland that Lady Jane and I had just visited a few months earlier, I read on.
The city, Derry, or officially Londonderry, is on the west bank of the River Foyle. Like many cities of Northern Ireland, such as Belfast, only about 75 miles away, Derry has seen its share of violence in the long and bloody struggle between pro-British Protestant Unionists and Irish Catholic Republicans over control of Northern Ireland, which remains a part of the United Kingdom.
Pope John Paul II did help to bring some mitigation to the violence back in 1979 with his visit. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 authored by British and Irish governments also decreased violence significantly. The unrest has never been fully eradicated. As recently as April of last year, there were riots with shots fired in a conflict between militant Irish nationalists and the police. A 29-year-old journalist from Belfast, Lyra McKee, was killed in the melee.
Prior to the Pontiff’s visit in 1979, the threat of violence was a daily possibility, and many felt it reached a boiling point on a Sunday in late January 1972 when British soldiers fired on 28 unarmed civilian protesters, killing 14. Historians have dubbed the event Bloody Sunday, and it has become a significant chapter in the country’s history, an event remembered in the song “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
To Richard Moore, a 10-year-old boy happy to be freed from the constraints of school in late May, just four months after the horror that was Bloody Sunday, he was oblivious to the British soldiers still stationed in Derry as he ran with several of his school pals along a football pitch in the same Bogside area where those shots were fired that brought such profound sorrow to 14 Irish families.
As Moore ran past a British Army lookout post, a skittish soldier was startled by the sudden trampling sound of the herd of schoolboys and fired off a rubber bullet intended as a warning shot. The rubber projectile ricocheted off the bridge of Moore’s nose and raked across his eyes.
Recalls Moore, “My nose was completely flattened, my eyeballs were down on my cheekbones, and my face was just a bloody mess. I lost my right eye, and I was left completely blind in my left eye.”
Moore’s parents, devout Catholics and daily Mass attendees, were devastated. They did not support nor take part in any of the civil unrest, but, as circumstances so often force, the horrors of a conflict still managed to find them.
While so many would have been bitter and hateful towards the individual who fired that rubber bullet and the circumstances that caused such a life-altering injury, Richard’s parents never said an angry word around their son. Richard credits their faith and love that they demonstrated for also allowing him to live without the hateful weight of anger and bitterness that would have been added to the handicap with which he was consigned to contend from that day forward.
By the time he reached adulthood, Moore replaced all that potential anger and resentment with such resolve that he became a successful businessman, a husband and father, an accomplished musician and a philanthropist.
As for his power to forgive, Richard Moore, some 33 years after the day that turned his world from light to darkness, made arrangements to meet the soldier who fired the bullet. And, during that emotional meeting, Moore found a way to live that forgiveness portion of the Lord’s Prayer that so many in matters so trifling by comparison can’t seem to do.
And it has been through his life’s journey that Richard Moore, lacking the ability to see, somehow developed 20/20 vision when it comes to seeing the power of forgiveness.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.