On my recent trip to Hilo I witnessed the following two interchanges. The first occurred in the QueenLili’uokalaniGardens by the bay. As I sat beneath a tree I couldn’t help noticing a couple walking in my general direction who were having an animated and not happy discussion. Every so often the woman would suddenly stop, hold out her arms towards the guy and plead, “I SAID I’m sorry!” After three stops-and-starts, when she did it again for the fourth time they were close enough for me to hear her say, “PLEASE forgive me!” He retorted, “Yeah, I forgive you.” The tone with which he said this made it clear to me, and I am sure to the woman as well, that he had done no such thing. On they went and I was left reflecting upon the disconnect many of us have between what we say and do, and our inner life.
The second incident happened while I was taking my daily walk in the Kuhio mall. I kept passing a young couple who were sitting in the food court who were clearly trying to thrash through some difficulty in their relationship. On one of my passes by their table I heard her say to him, “Please forgive me”; I then observed him get up and walk off. I felt terrible for the woman who had made herself vulnerable by asking for forgiveness and then having been denied it. Well, that was not the end of the story. Tired from walking I got a juice and sat a few tables away drinking my juice. After around 10 minutes the young guy came back… with a puppy in his arms! He handed it to her and I was close enough to hear her say, “But you don’t like dogs!” He replied, “But you do, so I want to.”
Good thoughts about others are not sufficient: It is only when we DO good to others that we actually transcend ourselves and our self-centeredness. Sometimes we can view ourselves interiorly as if… well, if not as a good person then at least not a bad person. But does how we act and what we say match up with how we view ourselves? There is always the possibility that just because we have noble thoughts we may, in fact, not live as a noble person!
Both instances that I witnessed had to do with forgiveness, one actually given and one denied, although the one where the words were said was not what it said that it was, while the one in which the word was never said manifested forgiveness through what was done. Paul Theroux has written: “Hawaii isn’t a state of mind, but a state of grace.” I certainly witnessed that grace when the young man put that puppy in the woman’s arms, and as she rubbed her face against the puppy’s soft fur her face clearly reflected the grace of having been actually forgiven.