I was sitting inside an auto shop waiting for my car's oil change when I saw Becky walk past the window.
I instantly recognized her. She looked the same as she did back in the 4th grade.
My family moved across town that year and I started a new school in the middle of the school year. It wasn't easy being the new kid. Becky arrived about a month later. And it wasn't easy for her either.
The kids in class were terribly rude, nicknaming her The Human Can Opener and Bucky Becky because of her protruding overbite. I always made it a point to be kind to her. But that's not what I was remembering when I saw her walk past the window.
I thought of recess.
I was slapping the red rubber ball against the side of the school wall as if playing two-square with the wall.
"Watch out Becky! You better get out of the way!" I said. Wack! WACK! wack! "You better mooOoooove!" I would shout to her.
Wack! Wack! wack! Wack! I hit the ball over and over again. Wack! wack!
She sat there on the bench in front and didn't move.
All of a sudden, the ball hit her in the face breaking her glasses. I froze. Scared and ashamed.
In my 9th grade yearbook Becky can still be seen sporting the same glasses with the white tape holding them together.
Watching her walk past the auto shop, I sat there in the cold plastic chair paralyzed with fear and shame.
I talked to some friends later about this incident of seeing Becky and how I wished I was brave enough to run out to the parking lot and ask her to forgive me for hitting her in the face. And how small I felt that I didn't do it.
They listened with their foreheads all scrunched up in little thin wrinkles arching around their brows while feeling the pain surrounding all this. "Well, maybe Shawn, you'll have another opportunity to run into her again..."
"Yeahh. Maybe!" i replied, not really believing.
. . . . . .
Several weeks later, I'm in a discount store to pick up a few supplies when I saw Becky stocking shelves! I am not scared anymore. I walked up to her and said, "Hi Becky!"
She turned and instantly recognized me, too.
I reminded her of our 4th grade recess when I accidentally hit her in the face with the red rubber ball and broke her glasses.
".... I know you don't own those glasses anymore, but I would still like to pay you for the money you were out back then. I owe you restitution for my wrongdoing..."
She just stared at me for a long while and said, "Shawn. You have been feeling guilty over this all these years!? You never hit me in the face. That was Dina! Don't you remember!? I'll never forget it!"
I stood there stunned, relieved and listened.
"You were nice to me. I trusted you. You were careful around me. I knew you had good aim and you would never hurt me and that's why I didn't move."
She gently grabbed my arm and said, "Shawn that was never your guilt to begin with. You were never meant to carry it."
I walked out of that store feeling warm and relieved that I had the opportunity to say hello and ask for forgiveness. But I also felt sad that I had carried that burden for a lifetime.
As I drove home, I turned the music off and just listened to my heart.
I wondered how many other times, I have carried guilt that was never mine. I thought of various situations and realize it has been way too many times. I'm on a learning curve. I can't say I've learned all about this now because of this situation because I haven't. But I want to. And plan to.
This lifetime, though too short, is too long to carry burdens that aren't our own.