Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Making amends is good for the soul

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I got an email from an old friend the other day. I hadn't seen the guy in a few years.

The message surprised me. He wanted to make amends. He said "I owe you an apology for anything that I might have said."

I wrote back saying an apology was unnecessary and wished him well with the new life he wrote about. I don't remember this young guy ever doing or saying anything to offend me.

I chalked his past attitude up to his youth.

My guess is he's now working a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous. Step 9 is a good one: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Good for him.

Whatever your background, age or circumstances, making amends is good for the soul.

Life is too short to carry around the dead weight of past mistakes, whether they were small ones, large ones or blunders only you remember.

Well, my friend's email got me thinking. Was there anyone that I needed to make amends to?

I sat and thought for a while and couldn't think of anyone.

Maybe reading too much Deepak Chopra or those long summer days of suffering at the sun dance taught me to forgive others and myself.

Or maybe I'm just getting old and forgetful.

I've done things I regret. But somewhere along the way I learned to let go and accept what I'd done wrong.

And over the years I've learned to get over my anger towards people who have treated me badly. I treated others badly, too. And I don't blame myself for things I had no control over.

It was just the way I got to where I am today.

Mistakes make people better people if they learn from them. I feel sorry for people who carry grudges and guilt around for decades. How hard their lives must be.

My people are, by and large, an accepting bunch. A couple hundred years ago we Ojibwa people accepted newcomers with open arms.

Many wrongs were done, and yet we accepted a fate many others now see as cultural genocide.

If Canada were a person, it'd have a few things to apologize for, and over the years it has tried to patch a few things up.

The Canadian government tried to make some amends just a few years ago in the form of a national apology and some money for children of residential schools.

Whether it was enough or whether the survivors accepted those words and moved on is up to them, but I pray they let that pain go.

But there are still amends of a different nature to make; they are the ones of an everyday nature.

I came upon two men on Main Street the other day; one was down on the ground and the other guy was trying to help him up. The one on the ground was struggling like a turtle turned over onto its shell.

I watched the scene play out as people raced by in their cars in broad daylight.

Would passersby call an ambulance any sooner if the men were a different colour? Maybe it's wrong to think this way, but I can't help it.

If people could make amends with how they saw those men, they'd surely pull over. If those men could deal with their past maybe they wouldn't have been there in the first place.

If only we could burst that huge invisible bubble that keeps us from seeing each other as equals.

I would like to have seen someone help those drunk guys on the street.

Giving and accepting amends does set you free.

Letting go of the past and embracing life with courage and strength can get you through another day.

 

Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer.

colleen.simard@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 21, 2012 J6

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