Learning About Forgiveness in Florence, Italy
A sound I will never forget: the guttural scream of a mom as she watches her three-year-old get knocked over by a motorbike. It happened so fast that most of what I remember includes that mother's scream as we watch a toddler fly through the air and land face-down in the street. Everyone in the nearby restaurants clutched their hands to their mouths, the waiters rushed across the street, and the mom moved towards her child though she was still crying, screaming, and nearly hyperventilating. All of it must have happened in less than a couple seconds, and yet it was a moment that seemed to move in slow motion. Then, miraculously, there was relief. Someone pulled the girl from the ground and she was crying, crying so loudly that her shrieks could be heard for miles around. I don't think there has ever been a more relieving sound. The mother ran her hands frantically over the girl's body, searching for broken bones, scrapes, bruises, anything that could have told her that her child was hurt. There was nothing. Nothing but the sounds of the girl crying for her dad. She was passed over to him and sobbed into his chest while he ran his hand soothingly up and down her back.
But that was only the first miracle. The second miracle was this: somehow, in the span of those few seconds, the man riding the motorbike saw what he had done, saw the girl fly through the air or heard her mother scream or something of the sort, and he came over to apologize. And when he came over to apologize, he went straight up to the man holding his little girl and said over and over again in Italian that he was sorry (I don't speak Italian but some things surpass language.) And this man, the man whose child had almost been killed, had almost died because of this man's recklessness, reached out a hand and cupped the motorcyclist's cheek with it and smiled.
The image stays with you. This man's child had almost been killed and he still reached out a hand and a smile towards the motorcyclist. I will never forget it. I've never witnessed a more astounding act of forgiveness. The relatives of the mother and father in this scenario started yelling at the motorcyclist soon afterwards, of course, but something in the dad told him that this man needed forgiveness for what he'd done.
I don't know what else to say except that it was powerfully human. A reminder to me that humans are capable of showing great kindness even when it isn't warranted. A reminder that forgiving people (something I'm pretty bad at doing,) is possible. Certainly something to think about.