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At What Point Forgiveness?

I am constantly blown away by the power of the web.

I have my days, mind you, where I think that's it's just a reeking cesspool of mind-numbing, self-serving crap within which anyone--regardless of if they should or not--can have their say. As a result, as with anything in this life, what is produced here--and the inevitable results--are ninety percent worthless.

And then, something happens that overwhelms and convinces me that ten percent wonderment is worth ninety percent ka-ka.

Back in August, I wrote a journal entry about my childhood bully, Johnnie Richards. I thank all of you who responded to my post. Your commiseration and stories of your own bullies gave me heart. If you haven't read that post, do so now, but don't read the comments just yet.

Then, out of the blue a couple of days back, I found an email from Johnnie Richards--yes, my hated, reviled bully--sitting in my inbox. It said, "I responded to your post about bullies. Take care and God Bless."

I ran back to that post and read his comment. The text follows:

Sir, Joseph Haines "Joe" - - I�m truly Sorry... at the time I had no idea... you moved away for a few years and then we met again in high school. Looking back I was indeed a bully� a �Dumb Ass Bully� Regardless of what you thought of me or how I treated you and others, I felt you were one of my best friends� maybe at times you were my only friend. I remember your shot at the buzzer� The Grantsville Lakers won that game on your shot at the buzzer. Steve Johnson was our coach. Coach Johnson set the last play up for me to take the last shot� but, I could not get open for the shot� I passed the ball to you and you sank that baby. I remember complaining to Coach Johnson that I could not get the shot� instead of congratulating you for saving the game for our team. You along with everyone else were congratulating each other� I was still mad because I could not take the shot� I just didn�t have a clue on how to handle anything back then� and I am still not much better at handling things these days. Everything you wrote, I�ve known since I was a junior or senior in High School� I only wish I could have understood back then, the pain I caused not only for myself but for others as well. So please Joe, let me live with the things I did� and you can just kick it to the curb� - - Johnny

Yeah, I can do that.

We sometimes get so caught up in our own side of the story we fail to even attempt to understand the other. Now what he did was wrong. I'm not bending there. There were too many incidents to make me believe for a minute that it didn't affect me negatively for many years.

But it also never occured to me to think that I was one of his only friends. I wonder what that must have been like? You're bigger than everyone else in your grade. You're ostracised to a certain extent because of the fact that everyone your own age is afraid of you and the kids who are your own size won't have anything to do with you because of your age.

Certain memories come back with an apology like that: I played football later down the line and had many, many games where I threw multiple touchdowns. Not bragging, just telling mind you. I would walk into school the next day to pats on the back and congrats from boys and girls alike. There were good memories of accomplishments earned.

Johnnie played one year of football. During a big game against our biggest rival, he dropped a pass in the end zone for what would have been the winning score. We lost. Hit him right in the hands.

Now that I'm remembering clearly, people talked behind his back for weeks after that one. Did he deserve it? Not a bit. It makes me wonder how many other things I forgot in my wave of hatred for this kid. Probably too many.

No one gave him a break. Not even me. You earned my hatred, Mr. Richards, but then again, I probably sold it to you too cheaply.

Or at least, you didn't pay enough for how many years I carried that grudge.

I hope you will accept my apology as well.

It's time to start thinking backwards a little more clearly.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss.

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