We travel back and forth across the mountains for months, refusing offers of hospitality. And then, at last, we accept.
OFFERS of LODGING and MEALS come and we turn them all down. For months and months, we turn them down.
“No, no, we are fine,” we say. “Thank you very much.”
Then suddenly we say yes, just like that!
Maybe we need the company.
Maybe it’s just the right time.
Maybe we are finally ready.
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AT THE RESTAURANT, the four of us lean into the conversation.
They were strangers to us an hour ago when we met in the parking lot, but now, dirty dishes waiting to be whisked away and the chip basket empty, except for broken pieces, we are comfortably acquainted, feeling at home far from home.
The waitress scurries back-and-forth, busy with other tables. We’re glad she hasn’t come with the check yet.
We lean in. We take turns speaking. We smile. We nod. We talk of work and home and where we grew up and how we ended up where we live now.
We even talk about the crisis that’s brought us together. We talk about tomorrow morning and court.
We heave a collective sigh – it was all so preventable – and there’s nothing we can do now but be present to the consequences. There nothing more to say, but then she speaks.
“People make mistakes.”
Maybe that’s what I needed to hear someone say. All this time, maybe it was just that.
Later, over coffee at their home, we learn of the daughter who went awry. The model student. The star. Their pride and joy. She up and left home and broke their hearts and almost their spirits. But it isn’t how the story ended.
I know, even as the tale unfolds, this is the story they’ve wanted to tell us all these months, if only they could get us to agree to come.
“People make mistakes,” they both say at the end, and now we know what’s behind those words for them.
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WEEKS LATER, we make the trip across the mountains again. We leave the house at 5 AM. Four hours into it – only 2/3’s the way there – the phone dings. A text from someone else who’s been after us.
Coming this way today? Love to see you!
Won’t you stay overnight?
How about just coming for lunch then?
What about just for coffee?
We agree to a brief visit.
There, in a living room I’ve never been in before, I hear again the words.
“People make mistakes.” And we learn of an incident from 50 years ago – a father gone wrong, losing everything, down for the count. But that’s not how story ended. Those who knew him in later years found it hard to believe the true tale of earlier days.
* * *
AT HOME, I FIND A NOTE from a year ago when the news first broke: “Praying for you all. People make mistakes…..” I’d seen the note before, but now the words jump off the page and I wonder what the story is here.
One thing I’m learning, that within the Church, tucked in here and there between the people who spit vinegar and the people too paralyzed to speak and the people who don’t know what to think, are scattered pockets of people who, neither condoning nor excusing another’s poor choices, are able to say with great conviction “People make mistakes, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.”
They know it because they or a parent or a child or a friend has made mistakes, sometimes grievous ones, and, despite differences in detail, each was real and personal and usually involved a lot of tears and heartbreak. But those things weren’t the end of the story.
I begin to refer to them as “The ‘People Make Mistakes’ Club.” They have an understanding that’s beyond academic, a special knowledge that’s common as dust, but not fully realized until it’s in one’s own face, until you taste it.
To me, this disparate band of wounded victors seem closer to the gospel message than any voice I’ve heard from the Church in the longest time.
People make mistakes but there is redemption.
People make mistakes but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
This post is a chapter from my current work-in-progress. Feedback cherished. 🙂
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