Friday, July 29, 2011

THE BANKER AND MR. GIBSON

These days it has become a popular pastime to bash the bankers. In the wake of the credit crisis, mortgage meltdowns and phony derivative markets there are sound reasons why the public are upset and feel betrayed by the banking sector. In being careful to not throw the baby out with the bath water I have to say that I have known some very good bankers in my life. They were even nice people.

For several years we lived across the street from Bill Anderson a former RCMP officer and a no nonsense banker at the TD bank. Bill and I had several adventures over the years which will be the subject of stories in future days. Another gentleman I was pleased to know was Bruce Gilbertson. Bruce was a gentle, soft-spoken man who was the manager at the Alberta Treasury Branch in town. I don't know if this is just urban legend or not, but I have heard that head offices cycle their managers by those who are lenders and those who are collectors. It is uncommon to leave a banker in one place for too long, for fear that they will develop relationships that could possible compromise their judgment when dealing with clients. My hat is off to all the bankers who tried to understand the machinations of a recording studio and record company being run in a little town on the Prairies and in Canada to boot.

One afternoon I was in Bruce's office at the bank. He had probably summoned me there to discuss any myriad of issues. Inventory levels, accounts payable or receivable, cash flow, etc. - never my favorite conversation! In the course of our meeting he mentioned to me that he had an old Gibson guitar at his house. That got my attention! He told me that he had purchased a fine new foreign built guitar and the old one was now a toy for the grandkids to play with when they came over to visit.

Gibson Guitars was founded by Orville Gibson, a mandolin maker, in Kalamazoo, Michigan in the late 1890s. The Gibson Guitar Corporation went on to manufacture a variety of instruments and revolutionized the development of the acoustic and electric guitars, and along the way have built one of the world's most iconic guitars, the Gibson Les Paul. Many of their instruments continue to increase in value and some Gibsons are among the most collectible guitars in the world. I had no idea what type of guitar Bruce owned, or what condition it was in, but I promised him that one day I would drop in for a visit and see the guitar for myself.

Some time passed and I called Bruce, making arrangements to stop by and have a look at his guitar. When I arrived at the house, Bruce proudly showed me the old instrument. From what we have been able to determine it was built in approximately 1954. What strings were left were all rusty and some of the frets were worn down completely. There were two large cracks on either side of the sound hole where the spruce top had completely caved in. It seemed that Bruce was a bit of a closet picker and had purchased the guitar decades before. He told me that in an earlier life he and his pals would sit around a fire, drink a few brewskies and sing and play until the wee hours of the morning. They would always end their night of revelry with the singing of Amazing Grace. As it happened, one night someone had drunk one too many, tripped and fell right on top of Bruce's guitar, rendering the fine instrument relatively useless. The guitar looked more like a giant spoon. I asked him what he intended to do with the guitar and he said he wasn't sure. Then he said some words that were music to my ears. "Steve, if you can use this guitar for good and positive purposes, you can have it." Humbled, I thanked Bruce for his kindness and bid him good day.

I returned to the studio with the guitar and presented it to my colleague, Eldon Winter. Eldon could make a cigar box guitar sound good and I figured he would be the right guy to make an initial evaluation of the guitar. He tuned up the remaining strings on the guitar and played a chord. There was magic in the room. In that instant we both knew that there was something very special about the guitar. Even in its battered and broken state, there was a musicality about the instrument that was so warm and inviting. We knew we had a keeper, the question now was how could we get the guitar fixed, so we could actually use it in the studio for recording.

A fine luthier friend of mine, Jake Peters, (http://www.jakepeters.ca) was called on to help in the decision. Jake is not only a expert builder of string instruments, but a champion banjo player as well. (you may insert banjo jokes here!) He took the guitar back to his shop to make an assessment and report back to me on his findings. Several weeks later, Jake phoned with the news. To properly restore the guitar to its original look and condition would costs several thousand dollars. I told Jake that I just didn't think that would be possible, but thanked him for his time. He then mentioned if it wasn't really a cosmetic restoration that we wanted, he could do a structural repair, adjust the neck, and give the instrument a new set of frets. He said there would be no difference in the playability or sound of the instrument, it just wouldn't look as pretty. For around eight hundred dollars, he said we could be in business and have a very usable guitar. I told him to go ahead and that I trusted his judgement. "Don't worry about how it looks, just worry about how it sounds", I told him.

The day finally arrived when Jake came to the studio to deliver the guitar. I could tell by the cheshire grin on his face that he knew we had something very special. He handed the guitar to Eldon. The sound that poured out of that guitar was jaw dropping! The guitar still bore the scratches, scuffs and scars of its previous life, but it was now solidly repaired and ready to make beautiful music once again. Sounds from that guitar have graced many of the albums I have been privileged to work on since that day. It has become our "go to" acoustic guitar in the studio. Recordings from Starfield, Jaylene Johnson, Matt Brouwer, Jill Paquette, Jake and many others, bear the imprint of that instrument.

As we begin the New Year, I have reflected on the story of the old Gibson guitar and realized that we are all broken.

Like Bob Dylan sings in his classic song:

"Broken hands on broken ploughs
Broken treaties, broken vows
Broken pipes, broken tools
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling, bullfrog croaking
Everything is broken"

Each of us has experienced pain, loss, hurt, loneliness, betrayal and the list goes on. Like the old beat up guitar, many of us have suffered some pretty deep wounds and scars. The good news is that there is hope. Hope for healing, forgiveness, restoration and peace. Hope for another day. Every one of us can be patched up and make useful, beautiful music once again.

As I ponder the past year, I am thankful for Mr. Gibson and at least one good banker!

www.prairieboy.com
© 2011 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Friday, July 22, 2011

DEAR HOLLY


Dear Holly,

I've wished to write this letter to you for a very long time. Years, as a matter of fact. I didn't know where to send it, so I am writing it now. You probably wouldn't recognize me. I guess I have grown up. Some may debate that, but I do have a little less hair, some lines around my eyes and some miles under my belt. This was one of those milestone years for me as I turned 50 and Cathy and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. I'm not sure you would remember Cathy. She was a Kirk, Doug and Audrey's daughter. I guess if I'm 50 that would make you 57; as I recall you were 7 years older than I.

It started when you were very young. I can't even imagine the horror you felt as night after night you would lay in your bed listening for the footsteps in the hallway. The sound of the doorknob turning made your skin crawl. When it was over, the knot in your tummy, lump in your throat, and hole in your heart made you want to scream. You had learned you couldn't do that, because the last time you did you had a bruise as big as a grapefruit on your face. Your Mom told the teachers you had the mumps and wouldn't be in school for the next two weeks. You would softly cry yourself to sleep wondering what you had done to deserve this kind of life. It seemed even more bizarre to you that he was a seemingly upstanding member of the church and community.

Your home was so strict . . . legalism on steroids. A complex labyrinth of rules. There seemed to be regulations for everything. A mind numbing system of do's and dont's. Don't wear make up . . . Do listen only to hymns . . . Don't cut your hair. . . Do always wear a dress, Don't ever wear jeans . . . Don't wear earrings . . . and on and on. Where was the joy, where was the freedom? How many times did you hear, "we don't want to give the devil any foothold in our lives, do we?" That never made any sense to you. You already knew the devil. He lived at your house. Of course, you realized later in life that these were all power moves, designed to intimidate and control and that abuse comes in many forms. I think maybe the saddest part was that your spirit was slowly being crushed.

Whenever I hear the haunting Suzanne Vega song, Luka, I always think of you. The following lines are particularly poignant.

Yes, I think I'm okay
I walked into the door again
If you ask that's what I'll say
And it's not your business anyway
I guess I'd like to be alone
With nothing broken, nothing thrown

You began to hate your Mom. If she really loved you, why didn't she protect you? Why didn't she speak up? Why didn't she tell someone? What you were too young to know, Holly, was that your Mother was a victim as well.

As a proud parent of three beautiful children that I love almost more than life itself, I just can't imagine what goes through a parent's mind that would abuse a child in any way. It is obviously a sickness, but it is an EVIL sickness. One that must not be allowed to be continued. The chains must be broken. No child should have to live that way.

My mother always had a huge place in her heart for the hurting. Her growing up years weren't exactly a picnic. Over the years dozens of woman shared all sorts of tragic events with my Mom. When she met you, Holly, she knew something was wrong, but she didn't know exactly what. She invited you to come over and babysit us boys when she and Dad would go out to various local events. She had hoped to get to know you more. She never got the chance.

We loved you as a babysitter. You knew us then as Stevie and Davie. You always wanted to do such fun things with us. We played ball hockey in the living room and made orange floats in the special tall glasses that Mom kept in the top cupboard. We played you some of our silly records and laughed, danced and sang along with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the top of our lungs. Now as an adult looking back, I can see why, when we let you choose the books to read to us before we crawled into bed, you picked the ones you did. They were always adventure stories or books about faraway lands and and enchanting people. You read us Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island for Kids and you really enjoyed reading us Cinderella, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. Those were the times we really saw you come alive and those green eyes of yours would flash with moments of hope.

It was a cold, snowy night in November that you picked to leave, just one month before your 16th birthday. A birthday that should have been Sweet Sixteen. You couldn't take it any more. You were dying inside. The pain was just too much. You told your parents that you were going to the friday night youth group at the church and that you needed to leave at 7 to get a good seat. You had saved up 26 dollars from your babysitting money and a birthday gift that had arrived early from your Aunt Cecile in South Dakota. You knew that wouldn't get you very far, so just before you left the house you snuck over to the pantry, opened the door and took 100 dollars out of the jar your Mom kept for emergencies. If this wasn't an emergency, what was? Your Mom never told your Dad about the missing money. It was as if she knew you needed to escape and knowing the money was gone would just send him into another fit of rage.

You had packed one small duffel with some essentials and hidden it inside the garage. You stopped in at the motel washrooms where you quickly changed into the pair of jeans you had bought at the Tilly. You threw the dress straight into the dumpster and knew you would never have to see it again. The Greyhound arrived every night at the Pop Shoppe at 7:30. You got there just on time and bought your ticket. The student fare was 5.50 for a one way trip to Calgary. The clerk never even questioned you or asked for ID. I suppose with all the students coming and going it was normal for kids to take the bus into Calgary. You sat at the very back, your parka pulled up around your face. There was only a handful of people on the bus and no one paid any attention to you.

The bus arrived at the terminal about 10:30 and basically dumped you out on the street. There was no one there to meet you. No one knew you were coming. You were scared and shivering, but you also felt a degree of freedom and excitement. This was your new life. A genuine sense of hope burned in your soul. So many emotions rolled up into one. You asked a man standing on the corner where you could get something to eat. He told you that pretty much everything downtown was closed, but if you walked 2 blocks south and 5 blocks east, you would find The King Edward Hotel and you could get something there. This was all new to you, but the sidewalks looked pretty well lit and so off you went.

In the cold and wind the seven blocks seemed to take forever. You finally arrived and walked in the front door. The King Eddy as it was called, was built in 1906 and by the time you were there in 1969, it had turned into a run-down, seedy dump of a place. Pimps, dealers, prostitutes and all manner of rough characters found refuge in the decrepit building. Of course, you didn't know any of this and as you opened the door and set foot in the lobby all you could think of was how good it was to be warm. You asked the guy at the front desk where you could get something to eat and he pointed you to the side where there was a door leading into the bar. You made your way down the hall and entered the dimly lit room. You were only 15 - you had never been in a bar. Again, no one asked for any ID or even said boo. Through the smoky haze you could see and hear a band belting out some tunes. You were so sheltered you didn't even know it was the blues. You walked in and sat down at the first empty table and put your duffel on the chair beside you. Pretty soon a waitress came over, smiled, offered you a menu and above the din asked what you wanted to drink. She would have brought you anything you would have asked for. You were never allowed to drink coffee at home and so you asked for that. When she poured it and you took your first sip, it felt so warm and reassuring on a cold night. You were pretty tired and as you began to relax you started wondering where you would stay. The waitress came back and you ordered a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a side order of toast. The reality of all these things costing money began to set in. As you watched the lead singer of the band and started listening to the music you thought that this didn't seem nearly as bad as you had been told the "big bad world" would be.

You were just finishing up your food when a huge guy with a black leather jacket walked over to your table and sat down. The first thing you noticed was the ugly scar that went from the tip of his chin all the way up to his ear on one side of his face. The second thing was his eyes. It was if they looked right through you. The waitress called him Slash, which he seemed to acknowledge as a badge of honor. You didn't find out until months later the origins of his name. It seems like Slash had been in a nasty bar fight where he had been cut really bad with a knife. Later that same night, after he had been stitched up, he tracked down the other guy and killed him. He had held his head in a toilet until he drowned. But that night he seemed friendly enough. He asked you your name and when you told him it was Holly, he smiled and said that was a very pretty name. He asked where you were from and you told him a little prairie town and that you hated your parents and you were running away. Slash asked you what your plan was and pretty soon you had to admit that there really wasn't one. "Right", said Slash, "You can stay with us". "Who's us?", you replied, a little bit puzzled. "We have a little club that meets out of here in the winter", he said. "In the summer we ride our motor bikes." Well, that sounded pretty exciting! You had no idea what a motorcycle gang even was. The first night everyone was so accepting. You tried to memorize all the names and faces. There were about 22 guys and about 6 women in the gang. At 2:00, after the bar closed for the night, everyone went up to the rented rooms. The sex was no big deal. You were used to that. You knew how to mentally check out. Your feelings had been numbed long before. This was your new family after all and they had accepted you. Slash had even paid for your coffee and food and given you a place to sleep. You wondered if this is what all families were like as you finally drifted off to sleep. Well, at least you were warm and fed, you thought to yourself. But what you hoped and dreamt would lead to freedom, love and a real life would only get worse. You had no earthly idea.

It seems so tragic that no one reported you missing. No all points bulletins, no amber alerts, no posters up in the bus depots, grocery stores and airports. Not even a prayer request in the church bulletin. Rather, more lies, more cover up.

When my Mom called to see about getting you to come over for some more babysitting, your Mother lied and told her that her sister was very ill in Iowa and that you had moved down there to help out. Again, my Mom's radar wondered what was going on, but there was nothing she could do. It was weird. Your Mom was used to lying. It was her way of protecting herself and her children. If only she could have gotten help. The first big lie your Mom was forced to tell was to hide the fact that she was pregnant with you when she got married. You never knew that did you? You were born just after your Mom turned 16. She was just a child. Your Dad was 24. It seemed like the extra 20 dollars that was passed over during the handshake was all that was needed to grease the wheels and get the necessary documents. At some point, 3 years were added to her age, so things would seem on the up and up. Your parents were married by a Justice of the Peace in Iowa and immediately left for Canada. What better way to start a new life and blend in than to move to a small, highly religious community on the Alberta prairies where people wouldn't ask questions? Your Dad knew all the lingo, knew how to play the part. After you left, your family never spoke of you again. It was like you were never born. When your sisters would ask about you, they were told that you were gone and wouldn't be coming back and never to ask again or they would be punished.

The call came about 11:00 on a Monday night. 3 years had passed since you had left and I was now 11 and you were 18. We boys were in bed, but in our tiny house we could easily hear the phone ring. It was you on the other end of the line. You called collect and I have always been amazed that you remembered our number. Mom answered and accepted the charges. She was so surprised and relieved to hear from you. In less than 5 minutes you blurted out what Mom had suspected all along. In your short time on this earth you had lived more than your nine lives. You were calling from a pay phone outside the bathroom in a bar you thought was in New Mexico, but weren't really sure. You explained to Mom that once you realized you were in over your head with the gang, and were sick and tired of being passed around like a piece of meat, you tried to run away. Several of the guys hunted you down and returned you to the main camp. Branding you with a hot iron with the gang's insignia, you were told that if you ever ran away again things would be worse. You asked Mom if she knew how your two younger sisters were and I am sure it haunted you whether they were going through what you had experienced. We didn't have caller ID in those days and Mom had no idea where you were calling from. By the end of the call you were both crying. You said you couldn't talk anymore as they could be coming to look for you at anytime. Mom was so stunned, all she could think of to say was that she would pray for you. And she did.

She also went to the police. The next day, we bundled up and got in the little red Ford Falcon and drove to the police station. Mom left the car running as she went inside to meet with Sergeant Moller. When she came out she was fighting back the tears. Later that evening, when Dad came home from the office, we heard her telling him that although the Sergeant was understanding, there was little he could do. You were now 18, no one had ever reported you missing and if you were really in the United States when you called, they had no jurisdiction over that country. And besides, where would they even start looking for you? As to any allegations, what proof did she have? No one else had come forward. Mom was absolutely devastated and felt so hopeless. All she could do was pray you would call again. You never did.

Holly, I wish you had been able to tell my Mom what was going on when you first met her. You could have come and stayed at our house. We boys could have used a big sister. Mom and Dad weren't perfect, but there was a ton of love and fun in our house. You would have been safe, nurtured and loved. You could have begun to heal. It seems almost flippant and somewhat disrespectful for me to tell you that I feel so blessed to have had the home I had. Please don't take it that way. I think when someone has something right, it makes it even easier to recognize wrong.

He died 4 years ago. As far as I know, he was able to keep everything hidden until that day. I would like to think he died of a guilty conscience. Up until the day he died, he was still wearing those too tight, polyester suits from the 70's and still using that horrid smelling hair cream that you hated. He was coming home from a prayer meeting and just dropped dead in the driveway.

Your Mom is in the senior's home. She seems happy. She is getting the best of care. The nurses say that she really has no memory. Maybe that's for the best.

Last week, when you passed away, there was no funeral. No one came to say goodbye. I wish we had known; we would have sent flowers. If I could have picked the music, I would have chosen two songs. The first is one of my favorite Vince Gill songs, written when his friend, singer-songwriter Keith Whitley, died at the age of 35. He is joined by Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless on background vocals. When they hit the chorus, it never fails to send shivers down my spine. I have taken the liberty of inserting your name in the lyrics.

Vince sings in his clear tenor voice:

I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren't afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain

Go rest high on that mountain
Holly your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a-shoutin'
Look for the Father and the Son

The other would have been one of my favorite Sarah McLachlan songs:

Arms Of An Angel

Spend all your time waiting for that second chance
For the break that will make it ok
There's always some reason to feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction, oh beautiful release
Memories seep from my veins
They may be empty and weightless, and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

In the arms of an Angel, fly away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of an Angel; may you find some comfort here

So tired of the straight line, and everywhere you turn
There's vultures and thieves at your back
The storm keeps on twisting, you keep on building the lies
That you make up for all that you lack
It don't make no difference, escaping one last time
It's easier to believe
In this sweet madness, oh this glorious sadness
That brings me to my knees

In the arms of an Angel, far away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie
In the arms of an Angel; may you find some comfort here


Rest In Peace, Holly. I am so, so sorry.

Love, the little brother you never had,

Stevie


Special Note:

Nobody, children or adult, should have to endure abuse of any kind.
If you or someone you know is being abused either sexually, physically,
mentally or emotionally, please, please speak up. There are people
who are prepared and want to help. Be a part of breaking the silence.
Be the voice of change.

Additional note: The story of "Holly" has haunted me for years. Let me offer a few words of explanation here if I may. Holly is obviously not the girls real name. The core story however is true. In order to protect and honor the real person and give some privacy to her family, I blended in parts of several other true stories that sadly I have become aware of in recent years. "Holly" was NOT a Prairie staff kid, but rather a local girl whom my mother knew. By the nature of my father pastoring at Bethel we were not always in the insulated bubble of Prairie that some were. The reasons I posted the story are multiple. Firstly, I wanted to stand with any and all victims of these horrible atrocities. Secondly, I wanted to do my small part to help create awareness especially in faith communities that these issues must be addressed, and the sooner the better so together we can begin to end this vicious cycle. Thirdly, I also wanted to do my part, however small, in helping victims begin to feel that they are not alone and do whatever I can to help on their journey towards restoration and wholeness. For those of you that think I have an active imagination and just made up an emotionally charged story for effect, you are sadly wrong. I actually left out some of the more horrible parts.

www.prairieboy.com

© 2011 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

POISON PEN


Each year when Christmas came around my mother played the role of part time Santa, part-time Mother Teresa. She took on the monumental task of making sure that, as it seemed to me at the time, half the town had a present under their tree from the Rendalls. These were not particularly exotic, expensive presents, but rather a token of her love. One year, it might have been a candle or decorated soaps which she had made. Another year it may have been a special food item. She would individually wrap hundreds of gifts for neighbors, friends, families, married students, the senior's organization and many others. My brother Dave and I were called on to act as "Santa's helpers" and were enlisted to help make deliveries.

One house I was usually dispatched to was directly across the street. The house couldn't have been more than 400 square feet and was always neatly kept. I was very fearful of the particular tenants of this house, especially the man. Not because he was part of a gang or the toughest guy in town. He wasn't a particularly big or strong man. Yet I knew he had a weapon. Not a knife or gun, not even a sling shot. The weapon he wielded was a pen . . . a poisonous one.

Tom Brannan and his wife lived in the small house across the street and had moved to Three Hills to enroll their kids in the high school at Prairie. There was some kind of disagreement with the administration over a disciplinary action involving one of his children and Tom really let this get under his skin. Quite frankly he became bitter. This little seed of bitterness grew into an entire root system that choked out life. He began to turn his anger into letter writing. A gifted man and former preacher, he was never at a loss for words. Over the years he wrote dozens and dozens of letters to the local paper and individual leaders at the school. He attacked L.E. Maxwell, my Father and others in his rants. He had not only taken a bitter pill, he had swallowed the whole bottle. Venom and bile spewed from his pen like Mount Vesuvius. Poisonous darts aimed at hurting and causing pain were lobbed in the direction of any and all that he felt had wronged him or his family in some way. He attacked with a vengeance that would have made William Wallace proud. This "cause" absolutely consumed him. He thought of little else and really had no life outside of this obsession. No friends, no real activities, just a very sad life. As is often the case in small towns, the rumors swirled and Tom became a larger than life figure as people went out of their way to avoid him on the streets and in the shops, fearful that he might turn his weapon on them. Looking like something from an aggressive political campaign, even his lawn was dotted with small stakes sporting placards denouncing his great displeasure with Prairie.

So there I was, every Christmas, standing on the step of that tiny house, knocking on the door, gift in hand. Usually it was Mrs. that came to the door, but occasionally "he" would answer. I would hand over the package, wish them a Merry Christmas and scoot back across the street, heart pounding with fear that I might just get shot at any moment. Safely inside, I would take some time to recover before Mom would send me on to the next delivery. Mom and Dad always greeted the Brannans with a cheery hello as they would pass them on the sidewalk or see them out working in their yard. They treated them like neighbors and never shunned them in any way.

Many years passed, the letters continued to be written and at some point, Mrs. Brannan passed away. Well into his eighties, the loss of his wife only made matters worse as it gave Tom more time to focus on the wrongs which he felt had been done. One of our good family friends had also befriended the Brannans and she made a consistent effort to stay in touch with him after his wife died. One day she was over at his house for a visit when he began to break down and lament the horrible things he had written and said about the school over the many years. He said he had been doing a lot of thinking about his life and wondered what he should do. Our friend kindly suggested that they call my Dad and he would know what to do. Dad went over to the house and met with Tom. He sensed a completely different man and so offered a suggestion. "Would you like an opportunity to address the entire church after my sermon on Sunday?", Dad asked him. "You would really allow me to do that?", Tom replied. "Of course", Dad said.

Arrangements were made for Tom to be in church that next Sunday morning. After Dad was done preaching he called Tom up to the pulpit. As he made his way forward every eye focused on the "monster of Three Hills". Dad spoke to the congregation and said, "Mr. Brannan has something he would like to say", and then moved over and stood right beside him. The tears began before he even started speaking. Dad put his arm around his shoulder as he stood there sobbing, his entire frame shaking. With a quavering voice hardly understandable at times, Tom apologized for the hurt he had caused so many for so long. You could have heard a pin drop in that tabernacle. When Tom was done Dad took the microphone and addressed the congregation. He sincerely thanked Tom for having the courage to stand up and say what he had just said. He accepted his apology and then he did what I thought was the most compassionate thing. He invited any of the congregation who wanted to come forward to show their support and forgiveness of Tom to do so. Dozens of people got up out of their seats and came up on the platform. Forming a semi circle around Tom, Dad said a prayer. When he was finished, folk lined up to hug this man and shake his hand. You could see the transformation on Tom's face as the burdens of bitterness, piled up over many, many years, began to slide away.

As I have reflected on this story in recent years, I am struck by three things.

The first is that bitterness not dealt with will grow and destroy. As Rhianna sings in her song, Disturbia:

"It's a thief in the night
To come and grab you
It can creep up inside you
And consume you
A disease of the mind
It can control you"

The second is that it is never too late and we are never too old to say, "I'm sorry", admit our wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness.

The third is that as community we need to be willing to offer up forgiveness and restoration and not let our bitterness and cynicism about someone else's bitterness stand in the way.

From that day on, Tom began attending church and would sit right up at the front. After church, Dad would barely be in the door and get his coat off, when the phone would ring. It would be Tom from across the street with a word of encouragement on how much he enjoyed the sermon that day. The poison pen had been put away. . . it had run out of ink.

www.prairieboy.com

© 2011 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET

The tale of the PHS library . . .