To the Editor,
This is directed to the person who threw a large pumpkin against my mailbox and put a dent in it. It turned out to be a blessing. I took the the pumpkin to the house and cut it up and received over 700 nice seeds which I can share with my neighbors; also a nice amount of custard to put in the freezer. Now if you want to stop in, let us know, and we will have pumpkin pie and coffee together and make new friends.
Joni J. Miller
I’ve read this letter many times, examined it over and over, trying to find the exact formula that my grandpa used to strike that balance of forgiveness and confrontation. I, myself find it all to easy to run either towards a silent, moping victim hood, (convincing myself that’s forgiveness) or towards a rage that somehow finds me complaining to everyone else but the perpetrator.
What didn’t Grandpa do?
- He didn’t go to his house and have a silent pity party for himself, thinking, “Of course, of COURSE, it was MY mailbox, not Ray Miller’s down the road, but MINE. Typical.”
- He didn’t (just) complain about it to the neighbors, remarking what a terrible world it is we live in nowadays.
- He didn’t hurl the pumpkin across the road into Dannie Lee’s field in a fit of rage.
- He didn’t waste the pumpkin.
- He didn’t say to the pumpkin thrower, “Well, guess what buddy, what goes around comes around.”
- He didn’t hope to just “never be bothered by that nincompoop again!”
- He didn’t write an anonymous letter to the editor raging about the wild young people in the community, and demanding that something be done about it.
- He didn’t rail against the Mailbox Smasher, calling him to regret and shame.
What did Grandpa do?
- He went to his house and wrote directly (as he could) to the offender.
- He wrote clearly about what the perp had done, namely throwing a large pumpkin and damaging his mailbox.
- He acknowledged the pumpkin as a blessing.
- He put the pumpkin to use, taking the pumpkin of destruction and turning it into something he could share with others.
- He invited the perp over for coffee! and pie!
- He suggested that they could be friends, calling the pumpkin hurler to higher ground, to being a better person.
There is something Mr. Rochester says to Jane (in Jane Eyre) that leaves a profound impression on me each time I hear it. “That look,” he says, searching her face. “No judgment. No pity. That look could pry secrets from the blackest souls.”
How do you do that? How do you look at someone with neither pity or judgement, though there are things to be pitied and judged in us all? Human tendency is often to say either, (a) “Oh Rochester, you poor thing, what’s happened to you is just not fair,” or (b) “Rochester, how could you? You know better! What were you thinking!” Neither response actually calls Rochester to higher ground, to moving on. The former does not acknowledge that perhaps life choices have contributed to the pickle Rochester finds himself in, nor does it recognize that life isn’t fair for anyone. The latter fails to acknowledge why Rochester has made the choices he has, and the environment and up-bringing that have brought him to this place. The one is an invitation to a pity party, the other to a guilt trip. And who wants to go there?
Grandpa invites Mailbox Smasher over, not to smash a pie in his face, but to serve it to him on a plate, with a fork, like a gentleman. Mailbox Smasher will eat the pie, looking Grandpa in the eye, knowing from whence cometh the pie, and knowing, simultaneously, we’re going to be good friends.