Occasionally something extraordinary happens, something that can’t be explained. Some call it fate or luck, others call it a miracle, and some call it an act of God. Some simply shrug and walk away.
It was a blank scrap of paper. It had no significance of its own, nothing capable of affecting others. Words are what transformed the paper -- simple words, just two short sentences.
It started with an elderly man sitting in a corner diner. He ate there often since his wife died. He ached, but not physically. There had been a misunderstanding between him and his daughter over a small thing his weary mind could not remember. He missed his wife, but there was nothing he could do about that. He missed his daughter and grandchildren, and he could do something about that.
He fished a pen from his pocket, carefully placed the paper on the table next to the plate of cooling meatloaf and potatoes. He tried to steady his trembling hand, but wasn’t successful. He wrote, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” He bit his lip to suppress the sobs that wanted to escape.
He finished his food, picked up his check along with the note, and slowly made his way to the cashier. As he exited the diner, he realized he’d left the note on the counter. Turning, he saw the young waitress, her eyes filled with sorrow, her elbow resting on the note. “I’ll write another,” he mumbled as he walked away.
Life had not been kind for Inge, and her husband, Franz, since they had arrived in America. They found jobs at the small diner, Inge as a waitress, Franz as a cook. They were happy until their small son ran into traffic and was killed. In their homesickness and grief, they began fighting. The fighting ceased, but now they were prisoners in the silence of their pain. Inge planned to leave Franz and return home. There seemed no reason to stay.
Minutes after the old man left, Inge locked eyes with her husband. Each looked away, unable to bear their own pain reflected in the other’s eyes. Before Franz’s gaze dropped, he glanced at the counter, then back at her. She turned and saw the folded paper lying there.
Picking it up, she read the words, mistaking the unsteady writing as her husband’s attempt at English. She locked herself in the bathroom and sobbed until there were no tears left. On break, she embraced her husband, and repeated the words, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” She told him of the baby growing beneath her heart.
Forgotten, the folded note rested in the pocket of her apron. It made its way to the cleaners along with other uniforms. There it dropped on a table to be picked up by a worker. The daughter and her mother, both employed there, both angry at the words they had hurled at each other. Bitterness had erected a wall. The daughter saw the unsteady writing as a mother overcome with emotion. That simple note reunited them in a tearful embrace.
Throughout the course of twenty four hours, the note mysteriously found its way into the hands and hearts of ten estranged relationships. Each reader viewed the unsteady writing differently. Each reader initiated reconciliation without mentioning the note. The deeply heartfelt words written by a broken man had taken a life of its own.
Early the next evening, the old gentleman made his way out his front door to walk to the diner for dinner. He had not written another note to his daughter as he’d said he would. His anguished heart feared rejection.
Tidy and meticulous, he bent to pick up the scrap of paper lying on his lawn. Unfolding it, he saw his scrawling penmanship from the evening before, and the words, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
Loneliness washed over him like suffocating darkness. He turned and slowly made his way inside. He brushed a weary hand across his eyes as his feeble hand reached for the telephone. Ten minutes later, he stepped onto his front porch. Within minutes his daughter pulled up. Joy burst across his face like morning sunshine. He was having dinner at his daughter’s house. Father and daughter embraced, their tears spilling like healing drops, each uttering the words the old man had written.
The note? It lay crumbled on the table. A simple piece of paper is nothing. Ah, but words – words give life to paper. Words are powerful.
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