When I was a very young man, I had the honor of working as a contract processor and telemarketer for Marriott Ownership Resorts. It was an exciting job because it gave me the opportunity to meet many people and learn many resourceful skills that have been useful throughout my latter years.
Even though some of the employees were of a mature age, most were young and immature, like me. The older and wiser employees were more productive than the rest of us. While they were focused and resolute to impress our managers through dedicated labor, the rest of us wasted a lot of company time with day dreaming and joking around.
For reasons that escape me, we once spent a whole week laughing hysterically during our breaks, thanks to the foolish dares we required of one another. Some of the dares were silly, such as: “I dare you to call a customer and quack!” or “Take this contract down the hallway to the manager while riding your chair!”
Other dares were not so innocent, such as taking a paper clip with a straw at the end in order to resemble a tail. The unsuspecting victims of this prank would walk around half the day with a tail hooked through a belt loop of their backside. We were so intoxicated with foolishness and coarse joking that we lost our senses. It was as if we were back in High School. In spite of this, the older employees remained patiently focused on their respective jobs, waiting for the wave of stupidity to pass-over and normalize again.
Shelley was a gentle, elderly Jewish man that worked part time with us. He knew how to win the hearts of the younger guys by quenching our ever-hungry stomachs with fresh bagels and cream cheese. Shelley was a man of small stature and thin complexion. Even though (in comparison to us) he was an elderly man, he glowed with a gentle joy that emanated from his eyes and the occasional shake of the head whenever we acted like the fools that we were.
I will never forget the day that someone placed a swastika on his cubicle that had been previously drawn on a sticky-note. Why would anyone place that sticky-note on his cubicle escapes conventional wisdom- we all loved Mr. Shelley! No one in our office were anti-Semites or racists! When Mr. Shelley saw the sticky-note with the symbol of hate attached to his cubicle, the fragile gentleman began to sob and ask God why anyone would place such a demonic sign of hate on his cubicle. “Lord God! What have I done to deserve such an act of hate?”
The whole office became as silent as a grave yard. “Who did this!? Who did this!?” He was resolute to continue demanding to know who did that act of stupidity. After what seemed to be like an eternity, one of the most gentle young men stepped forward and said: “I did it Shelley. I’m sorry…” Shelley asked: “Why would you do such a stupid thing? Don’t you know that my parents were killed in the holocaust?” The young man covered his face as he was sobbing. “I am sorry Shelley…I am sorry Shelley… I got caught up in a stupid dare.”
The whole office looked at Shelley. The young man had fallen into his chair, hands covering his face…in pure, utter repentance. We will never know what was going on in Shelley’s mind- but for a moment, it seemed as if his whole life flashed before his eyes. Perhaps Shelley remembered how foolish he was when he was young…Perhaps he remembered that the reason why he liked us so much was because we reminded him of himself.
Shelley stepped forward towards the young man- we all gasped. If Shelley would’ve slapped him, none of us would’ve intervened. Instead, Shelley placed his hands on his shoulders and said:
“Son, you’re one heck of a dumb ass…but you have a good heart. I forgive you.” Then he turned away and left. We never saw Shelley again.
Many years have passed since then- but whenever I think about forgiveness, I think of Shelley.
Ephesians 4:32- Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.