Last week, a letter ran in the Oregonian opinion section. It was from a mother whose son has dwarfism and she had experienced another family using the word midget to describe her son and laughing after they saw him. The letter she explained how disappointed and angry she was at these parents for not role modeling better behavior and speaking with their son about what was appropriate behavior when you see someone who is different from you. She mentioned that she sends a letter out every year at his school sharing the facts about dwarfism. That 1 in every 10,000 births results in a baby born with dwarfism; there are more than 200 distinct forms of dwarfism, or skeletal dysplasia; and more than eighty percent of all people with dwarfism have average-height parents and siblings with no family history of the condition, just like her son.
Today, the Oregonian ran the reply from the father whose son had asked the question, “Is that a midget?” He acknowledged that perhaps in the moment he hadn’t handled the situation correctly and apologized for his behavior. He wrote to the mother asking forgiveness for his words.
We are in the 10 days of the Jewish New Year where we are asked to inspect ourselves and our behaviors in the previous year. One of the ways we can be absolved is by asking forgiveness.
Ask forgiveness – To err is human, to forgive, divine. – Alexander Pope
Even if it is easier to hold a grudge, asking for forgiveness lets you move forward and let go of that negative energy. Forgiveness requires two people, one who acknowledges that they made a mistake and the other to accept that apology. Jews are required to ask forgiveness from those people whom we might have wronged during our high holiday season. This could be a physical, emotional, or financial wrongdoing. We are invited to make an honest and heartfelt apology, and we can do so up to three times, after which time the victim is expected to wholeheartedly forgive us provided the plea for forgiveness was sincere. Why not use this model yourself for asking forgiveness.
This scenerio does seem to have a positive outcome because now two families were able to move forward after a difficult situation and the rest of us are also able to benefit from their learning and actions to ask for this forgiveness. And we the readers benefitted as well by sharing in their process.