Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The "F" word...

Yesterday morning, the kids and I walked to the library to return some books and to pick up a book that was on hold for me. Before leaving, I checked my library account on their website and discovered that two exercise videos I'd checked out were an entire week overdue! Yikes! I quickly calculated that I owed $12. Not good, Gail.

As we walked, the children and I chatted and told stories all the way. We commented on dogs we saw, the status of neighbors' lawns, past journeys we've taken as a family, future trips we hope to take, baseball, basketball, world cup soccer, all sorts of things. We looked up at dying trees and looked down at very lively weeds that had pushed their way through cracks in the sidewalk. We were the von Belsito family on a hike through the Alps of South Charlotte, singing, laughing, and making the most of a humid Carolina morning.

So when I arrived at the library, tail between my legs because of the overdue thing, and handed the videos to the woman behind the counter, I was a little offended and taken aback when she handed me my receipt and said, "Here is proof that you are once again an upstanding citizen." Perhaps I am a little over-sensitive on such issues, but I didn't think that having overdue videos changed my citizenship status. Whatever...

After locating the book that was being held for me, I went back to the same woman to check out - my mistake. I opened my wallet and discovered that I'd left my library card at home. Again, my mistake - I remembered immediately that I'd pulled it out of my wallet because I didn't intend to carry my wallet with me, but once I discovered the overdue videos, I took my wallet in order to pay the fine... and left the card on my desk.

Not surprising to anyone who knows me, I'm one of those number-obsessed people who memorizes many of the important numbers in my life (Is there any number more important than one's library card? FYI - I haven't memorized the kids' social security numbers yet, but I do know their library card numbers by heart. Go figure.) and offered to write my library card number down for the librarian to use. She would have none of that. I couldn't understand why not and, in my defense, I noticed that another librarian seemed as surprised as I that she wouldn't allow me to use my card number. There is a library regulation that states that each patron gets only two opportunities to have their account accessed without their card and then they have to pay for the privilege; I now have one mark on my record.

I left the library feeling quite prickly. What did I do to deserve to be treated that way? I am one of their most loyal and supportive patrons. Most of the employees there know us either by name or by face; we are regular guests, as you can well imagine. By the time we got back home, I was in quite a lather. How dare she? Doesn't she know who I am?

About an hour later, I pulled out the last journal I'd written to look up someone's phone number, and while flipping through it, I came across the notes I'd taken on The Traveler's Gift, a book I'd read earlier in the spring. One of the seven declarations of that book is, "Today I will have a forgiving spirit." Perfect timing; thanks, Lord, I needed that.

Take a deep breath, Gail. Forgive her meanness, her rudeness, her inflexibility. Forgive your own anger, your judgmental thoughts, and your desire for an apology. You have no idea what she's facing, what her life is like, or what she has endured at the hands of unruly library patrons. Her behavior is not worthy of carrying a grudge or going back and speaking to a supervisor. And with that, I was set free.

If I cannot forgive the disrespectful librarian,
if I cannot forgive the crabby cashier,
if I cannot forgive the forgetful friend,
the disobedient child,
the raging driver who passes me on the right,
then how will I ever forgive myself for disrespecting others,
for being crabby with Steve and the kids,
for forgetting the birthdays and anniversaries of loved ones,
and for sometimes being a rage-aholic myself?

If I cannot forgive others,
how will I ever be forgiven?

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