This I Believe

Barbara - Denmark, Maine
Entered on August 23, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe that forgiveness is the key to our survival.

Several years ago we needed to hire employees. My husband hired a woman named Karol. Karol was entering the workforce after being on welfare and fired from many jobs. She had a case worker who assisted with her job skills and accompanied her to work for a period of time. An employee noticed that Karol wore a bandage on her forearm. She asked if she had injured her arm, Karol replied no. After being pressed by the employee, Karol told her that she had KKK tattooed on her arm when she was young. Karol had not met me and did not know that I was Black. She did not realize that I would be working alongside her. Karol had only met my husband who is White. When she saw me, she covered the tattoo.

When I was told the story, I was surprised, but not shocked. Karol told me that she had a tough life and was a single mother raising a daughter with mental illness. Her son was struggling with substance abuse and she was worried. When I shared that my son was struggling with substance abuse, she said that I looked happy, and asked how that could be. I told her that I had done all that I could do, and had to let him go. I had to love him from a distance. I told her that I left a door open for him if he wanted help, but it was up to him. My tears would not help, nor pleading, or my desire for him to get help. I told Karol that I had a younger child and had to be as whole as possible for her. Karol was overwhelmed and found it hard to work because she never knew what she would walk into when she went home. Her daughter would fly into rages and destroy the house. Her mind was not on her work, her job performance was weak. I spoke with her case worker. I told her that I thought the State was irresponsible to expect Karol to work while she carried this burden. Karol was being set up to fail. She could not concentrate on her work and the State needed to help her daughter before they could help her. Karol left our employ. Before she left, I wished her well and thanked her. Karol said, “No, thank you,” we embraced and shed tears.

We all make mistakes in youth and some mistakes are huge. Some of us are able to tuck mistakes deep, never to divulge them. Often we wear mistakes in plain sight as tattoos, scars, or in our behavior. Some people never let us forget our mistakes. Whether in plain sight or deep within, our past mistakes need not define who we are or who we will become. Past mistakes are reminders of what we went through, of what we have learned, and of what kind of future we hope for.