A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker



"Joe? Is that you?"

The woman speaking to me at the basketball game looked vaguely familiar.


"It IS you!" she exclaimed, smiling broadly. "Gosh, it's good to see you again!"

It was good to see Marci, too. Off and on during the past few decades I've wondered about her. I almost tried to track her down a few years ago after talking to a mutual friend who had indicated that the 1980s had been pretty rocky for Marci. So bumping into her at the basketball game was, at the very least, fortuitous.

We spent a few minutes catching up on the business of our lives: kids and careers, spouses and houses, education and recreation (it's always a little disconcerting to see how few words are required to summarize 25 years of living). We played a little "have you seen . . . ?" and "did you know . . . ?" and we reminisced about the good old, bad old days.

Then Marci grew quiet for a moment, looking out over the crowd milling about the concession area. "You know, Joe," she said, "I've always wanted to tell you . . . how . . . you know . . . how sorry I am for the way I treated you."

I squirmed. One does not like to remember when one has been unceremoniously dumped.

"It's OK," I said. "No big deal." At least, I thought to myself, not now.

"But I was such a jerk," she continued.

Yes you were, I thought. "We were both pretty young," I said.

"I know," she said. "But that's no excuse for . . . " She hesitated, then continued. "It's just always bothered me, remembering how mean I was to you. And I've wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. So . . . I'm sorry."

The smile on her face was warm and sincere. And there was something in her eyes it looked a lot like relief that melted any vestiges of icy resentment that may have built up within me during the years since she had slam dunked my heart.

"OK," I said. "Apology accepted!" Overcome by the sweetness of the moment, I reached an arm around her and gave her a quick hug. Just then, the crowd erupted with a huge cheer, and Marci and I both returned our attention to the game. By the time I looked over to where she had been, she was gone. But the warm, wonderful feeling of our brief exchange was still there, and continues to this day whenever I think about it.

We all carry bitter, discomforting memories of deeds done or undone, and words said or unsaid. And we all bear wounds some slight, some not-so-slight that have been inflicted upon us by others. The healing balm of forgiveness can soothe a troubled conscience and bring peace to an injured soul even years after the fact. Of course, it isn't enough to just say "I'm sorry" and "You're forgiven." While there is indeed great power in those simple words, it is not available to those who are insincere, or who are only looking for a way to control, manipulate or exploit. But when those words are truly felt and sincerely expressed, they can open the door to miracles of the heart and soul miracles of forgiveness.

Even at a basketball game.

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--- © Joseph Walker

Look for Joe's book,
"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." available on-line through and