Forgiveness, humor and Ms. Neely-Templeton

In other blog entries I have written about the importance of forgiveness and a sense of humor.  This story adds longevity to the mix … In my dreams about what a world that was structured to uphold social justice and that honored human rights, women like the one in this story would hold a very special place.  Indeed, we all should live so long as to be this kind of lady!

So, while I’m not much of a church going soul these days, once upon a time in another time and universe, one Sunday I found myself in one of the local churches – I was kind of drawn to it as the Café I set off for was closed, and the bill board said the talk (homily?) was about forgiveness – so I though, what the ‘h’ I’ll see what she has to say.  So, the good reverend launched into her talk and reminded everyone about the new testament invocation to forgive those who you think have wronged you seven times seventy times – a nice reminder I thought.  Then as she was pulling things together, she asked the congregation for a show of hands: “How many of you can say that you have forgiven at least most of your enemies?”

 Fortunately for me, I was sitting in the back, so I could see that nearly two thirds of the good folks in the church raised their hands. The minister then rephrased her question and asked, “How many of you can say that you want to forgive your enemies?”

 To that question I could see that the entire congregation gladly raised their hands, all but one gracious, elegantly poised lady sitting in the very front of the church. Well, I settled back in my seat and thanked the sweet goddess that I live in Milford, confident in the knowledge that if I mess up, the odds are pretty good that I can hope to be pardoned by my neighbors – all but one apparently!

The minister smiled a wry little grin and asked, “Ms. Neely-Templeton, do you mean that you are not willing to forgive you enemies?”
“Good, Reverend Pastor, I just don’t have any enemies to forgive,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

“Ms. Neely-Templeton, that is remarkable. And, how old are you?”

“Ninety-eight,” she replied. As if we were one, everyone in the congregation – I will confess to it, even me – we all stood up and clapped our hands with awe and respect and the generous, compassionate heart that this woman must have been nurturing all her years.  It just nearly brought tears to my eyes.

“Ms. Neely-Templeton, would you please stand up and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years and not have an enemy in the world? What is your secret for forgiveness?”

With all of her poise, grace and elegance, Ms. Neely-Templeton stood up, smiled warmly at the minister, turned to face the congregation, and said, “I just outlived the sons-a-bitches.”

 I left church that day with a radiant smile on my face and glowing warmth in the very depths of the cockles of my heart. In my world of justice and human rights, there will be a lot of folks just like Ms. Neely-Templeton.

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