By Allison Gingras
Vacation Bible School—a glorious avenue of extending faith formation during the summer. Over 10 years ago, a friend convinced me our children needed this, and we were the ones to make it happen. It started slow with 50 kids and volunteers, and by time we left the program in new capable hands, the week’s enrollment toppled over 125! It was a divine week of singing and putting on skits (my role); outdoor games and yummy snacks (so not my role); coupled with my husband’s story telling (there is nothing like seeing your hubby in Roman period garb). We thrived as a family each summer during that week—praising, praying, preparing. It was perfect!
Then we changed parishes.
This parish offered Vacation Bible School, but I would not be directing or dancing, because I needed to interpret the week’s activities into American Sign Language for my daughter Faith, the newest addition of our family via adoption from China. My teenage sons were less-than-enthused about being “volun-told” for that summer’s VBS week. They made their displeasure known by dragging their feet and making us very late. We arrived after the opening music had already begun. The room was dimly lit (to better see the lyrics), people were packed in the doorway (it was a small room), and our unfamiliarity with the parish confused things further. The boys’ less-than-best behavior, the mounting heat, and the stress of trying to navigate and get registered triggered a major anxiety attack. Finally reaching the registration desk, the nice volunteer behind the table handed me a yellow shirt for my daughter Faith. I was expecting the blue one, indicating she was in the Kindergarten group verses the preschool group, and she nicely explained they were unable to accommodate a change to the “right” group.
And … then … it … happened.
Major meltdown. Not the kids but me!
I yanked the shirt from her and told her, “Fine,” we’d try it her way. I stormed off, leaving her startled with tears welling in her eyes. Furious, I dragged my daughter over to the music area, barked orders at my sons to stop sulking and find their groups, and angrily signed the words to the opening song about “love and joy.” Oh the irony!
We were shortly introduced to our groups and sent along our way to enjoy the day. The moment Faith and I walked into the colorfully decorated preschool room, saw the others campers including two other special needs little girls, and met her group leader (a special education teacher by trade), I instantly knew I had made a huge mistake! The Holy Spirit had guided us to the absolute perfect camp experience for Faith.
At that moment I contemplated two options: 1) Pretend my morning tantrum never happened and go along my merry little way, hoping the nice volunteer would forget it. Or 2) Gather my pride, find the kind woman, and beg for her forgiveness.
I went with Plan B, as we’d already changed churches twice before this, and I wasn’t interested in doing so again. When I finished apologizing, her eyes teared again! Oh man, now what did I say?! She took a breath and explained how I was not the first to treat her that way during registration, but I was the first to apologize. She graciously accepted my apology, showing me great mercy. Laure became my first friend at our new parish, and she remains one of my dearest to this day. She soon joined the small faith-sharing group I host at my home and has brought with her several wonderful women over the years. The ripple effect of that one apology being received with great grace and mercy has garnered incredible blessings!
Shortly after this episode, the Lord called me to conduct women’s retreats on forgiveness. This story has been a part of every single Peace of Forgiveness retreat. I received mercy, and went to not only do likewise, but encourage others to do the same.
About the Author:
Allison Gingras is founder of Reconciled To You and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays at 10 a.m. ET. Allison blogs, writes and speaks about living an every-day life of faith. She created the “Words With” daily devotional app series, Words with Jesus, and offers presentations on forgiveness, trust, and lessons from the Blessed Mother.