“I’m So Sorry”

Dear Will:

There are these three boys next door who think my son is the coolest. They stand at the wall between our houses and call his name; or sometimes, if they’re feeling brave, they come to the door and ring for him. There’s nothing unusual about any of that except that Seth is nearly 13 and the boys next door are six, five, and three. It’s a strange friendship, to be sure, but Seth is the sort of good-natured fellow who takes genuine pleasure in creating fun and adventure for the kids next door.

Were they brats, Seth might not be so enthusiastic, of course, but the truth is that the half-pint neighbors are delightfully charming. They’re around frequently enough that they and I have even developed a standard greeting: “Hey,” I’ll bellow, as I climb out of my car, “what’s the big idea?!?”

“Nothing!” they respond in perfect unison, grinning each time at the familiar ritual. In fact, it’s gotten so that when they see me they’ll often yell “Nothing!” even before I have a chance to say my line. Irresistible.

These are very little boys who nevertheless show few of the tendencies you and I might otherwise ascribe to three so young and so, um, related. They do not squabble. They do not tease. They don’t even show any open resentment toward the youngest for always tagging along and asking the sorts of inane questions that tend to drive older brothers crazy. And recently it occurred to me that, in spite of all of the play and competition and backyard sports in which they and Seth engage, I had never heard any them cry.

Had never. A couple of weeks ago, I was summoned to the backyard by Seth, who was in full-blown panic. I came out to discover water gushing out of my automatic sprinklers. The little fellow in tears—heartfelt tears—was trying to explain that it was all an accident. They were playing some sort of incomprehensible game involving the bocce balls, and one of those heavy wooden spheres had come down hard on the sprinkler mechanism and cracked the main. They didn’t mean to, he kept insisting. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I had to shut off the water completely in order to also shut off the tears.

As it turned out, the automatic sprinkler array had to be completely rebuilt because of the precision placement of that crack. I had to ask for outside help, and the grass went unwatered for days until the work was complete. I don’t know what that’s going to cost me, but you can rest assured that the project was not in the budget.

Nevertheless, I am neither angry nor annoyed. How can I be upset at a little boy for an accident? In truth, I’m not even a little upset. If he had been defensive or belligerent, or if he had denied responsibility, I suppose I would be grumbling about the whole thing. But the fact is that he was genuinely contrite, remorseful in a way that leaves me still feeling sorry for him. I found myself wanting to comfort him, reassure him, make his pain go away. I wanted him to feel deep down that there was no real harm done, that I had forgiven him even before he had asked for my forgiveness.

In light of those very real, very human, very familiar emotions—his desperation to be forgiven and my heartfelt desire to reassure him and forgive—is it even somewhat difficult to believe that God will forgive us of our misdeeds? If we mortals are capable of such compassion, imagine how much more profound is the love of God directed toward those who come to Him with broken hearts and contrite spirits. Imagine how willing He is to lift our sorrows and heal our pains. “Come unto me,” Christ says, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Believe it.


The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Dear Will:

James E. Faust died earlier this month. His passing caused hardly a ripple in the national press, but for us members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was a significant loss.  Faust served over 12 years as a counselor in the First Presidency, and during that time we came to know him as a wise and sensitive man. Personally, I will miss his sense of humor and clear, articulate sermons. Although he was by any definition an “old man,” when he spoke my children always listened. I think it was because he never talked down to them nor did he talk over their heads. When President Faust addressed a congregation, the message always seemed personal and heartfelt.

In his honor, therefore, I will spare you my usual ramblings and share with you instead something much more meaningful: James E. Fausts’ discourse on “The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” delivered during the April, 2007 General Conference. After we heard it, many of us commented on what a remarkable discourse it was. Little did we know at the time that we would not be hearing from this great man again.

You can read it here, or watch it here. This is a little longer than my usual letter, but it’s well worth the read. I hope you enjoy it.


Stepping Away from the Curb

Dear Will:

As many of my friends know, about 3 ½ years ago a couple of buddies and I started a company called Thumbworks. In January, we sold our firm to a company in France. In the months that followed the acquisition, I hired several very capable people as we braced for a major expansion here in North America. It was all very exciting and promising. I may have mentioned it to you.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that my new bosses had decided to get rid of each of the very capable people I had hired along with all three of us who started Thumbworks in the first place. It was a stunning development considering the stated intention of our new bosses to grow our business here in the States. I couldn’t help wondering why they bothered to acquire us in the first place—or what, for that matter, they had ultimately acquired. I’m puzzled to this day.

But none of that changes the fact that as of Tuesday I will no longer be on the payroll of a company I watched grow from a blank piece of paper into a thriving firm with 20+ employees and product distribution in countries all over the world. I feel a little like the guy who just had his sandcastle kicked over by someone bigger—“just because.”

And so I am faced with a couple of important decisions. The first and most obvious is to figure out how to make a living and feed my family (still working on that, by the way). But assuming that works itself out—and I have every confidence that it will soon—I will be left with some memories of a great run destroyed. Had I gotten rich off of the acquisition, I’m sure that I could face the future philosophically; but since I have little more to show for my hard effort than the accumulated experiences of 3 ½ years, I admit that magnanimity is proving hard to muster. So as this chapter of my life comes to a close, the other decision I face is this: What will I choose to hold onto? The memories of the great run? Or the bitterness left by the destruction of what we worked so hard to build?

Eventually—and I’m not there yet—I hope to simply leave the disappointment behind me and get on with life. I know that harboring resentment or bitterness or regret can only canker my soul, so no possible good can come from obsessively replaying what happened or whining about what might have been. It will be better for me—not just in the long run, but in the short run as well—to simply move on. In fact, I have this image in my mind of bending down and placing “Thumbworks” on the curb and then walking away—never looking back or returning again to that spot. And when that phase of my life comes up in conversation, I’ll smile about all I learned instead of complaining about broken promises and dreams.

That’s my goal, anyway, and I’m working hard to get there. When I catch the bitter feelings starting to show, the Apostle Paul gives me this gentle reminder: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). As I consider that good counsel, I smile and take another, stronger step away from the curb.

Check in with me in a month and I’ll tell you how I am doing. Or better yet, check in with my wife. . . .