Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Guilt Over Something Silly

I read this article today, which reminded me of an event from my childhood that still triggers a tinge of guilt.

See, like so many kids before me, I had sent off balloons with notes hoping to gain a pen-pal in some far-off locale. Nothing ever came of them.

So, a friend of mine and I decided to up the ante. We wrote a note promising $500 to the person who found this note tied to a balloon and replied. We watched excitedly as the balloon rose higher and higher into the sky and eventually vanished out of sight...and after all of 15 minutes, out of mind.

But, flash forward several weeks later, and I had received a letter in the mail from a man requesting his $500. From Vermont. (We sent off our balloon in Michigan.)

And so this is where the guilt comes in. Because honestly, we never imagined anyone would ever find the note, let alone take it seriously. But this man did, and expected payment. How horribly disappointing it must have been for him when we had to reply back telling him that we were just a couple of kids. In a vain attempt at humor, we included a $500 bill in Monopoly money, but I can't help but wonder how he must have felt, thinking he won some real money, only to find out later it was just a joke.

Funny how we can hold on to something like that and still feel guilty about it years later. I think it is because unlike real life where we may cause damage, but ultimately ask for forgiveness or know it is this case, there is no such opportunity. No way of knowing if the person was angry about it.

And how much is life like that? Asking for forgiveness is a powerful thing. Receiving it is even more powerful.


Beth Stebbins said...

Interesting story. You have to wonder, though, how seriously the man took the note and whether the fact he didn't the money hurt him. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt (:

Martha O'Connor said...

In situations like this, where I can't make amends to the person, I write a letter, and then burn it, releasing to God/Higher Power/Universe/whatever word you choose to use.

As you know amends are really about getting right with God (or whatever word people use for their Higher Power-I use God and I know you do, but not everyone may).... the other person's response is not supposed to matter (though it's nicer when they're kind!)