February 22, 2019

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Faith teaches us that prayer changes things—including ourselves

Debra Tomaselli“What happened to my boots?”

I cringed when my neighbor Nancy asked that question. I’d hoped she wouldn’t notice the scuff marks, and if she did, I hoped she wouldn’t care.

But here she was, demanding an explanation.

It was an awkward incident; I knew that. That’s why I returned the boots by leaving them on her doorstep. I wanted to escape responsibility. I wanted to avoid her reaction.

“Yeah,” I said. “Sorry.”

“What happened?” she said. “I mean, they’re really beat up.”

“Nothing,” I said. “I just danced. I guess the heels kept kicking the boots, and I didn’t realize how torn up they were getting.”

Secretly, I rolled my eyes. What difference did it make? The boots weren’t important to her. When I borrowed them to wear to the school’s square dance, she said they’d been in her closet for years. She’d never once worn them.

An uncomfortable silence followed. “Do you want money for them?” I asked. It seemed a ridiculous question. It’s not like they were her prized possession.

Nancy paused. “No,” she finally said. “I was just surprised to see them looking like this.”

Time passed. To me, the boots were a problematic memory, one I avoided at all costs.

However, things changed when years later my brother’s unexpected death shattered my world, causing me to delve into my Catholic faith.

I began frequenting the sacraments. I started reading Scripture. I began praying daily, including the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon …”

Injury. Pardon. Again, memories of the boots surfaced. This time, I didn’t push them aside.

Instead, the prayer awakened my soul. I decided to make restitution for Nancy’s boots which I ruined so long ago. I realized I’d handled the situation poorly back then. I knew the injury was my fault and it was time, finally, to ask pardon.

And I knew exactly what to do.

I reached for my sky blue notecards.

“Dear Nancy,” I wrote. “Please accept this check in reparation for your boots which I ruined so long ago. I know you probably don’t need them anymore, but use the money to buy a new pair of shoes for yourself, or for whatever you see fit. Sorry it took so long. I appreciate your friendship!”

I wrote a check and slipped it, alongside the note, into an envelope and mailed it.

I smiled. My heart felt happy. It felt like a weight had been lifted from me.

I’ll never forget Nancy’s reaction.

“What’s this?” she asked. She seemed to be glowing. “I forgot about that long ago,” she said. “Take the money back. You didn’t have to do that.”

But I laughed. “No, keep it,” I said. “It’s for you.”

Smiling, she thanked me, adding, “You made my day!”

It was the most freeing thing I ever did.

Reconciliation, it appears in unexpected places … in many ways … on any given day.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. … God answers prayers.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.)

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