In the entryway, a haggard man, or what was left of him, his shoulders hunched, his eyes withdrawn, his clothes in tatters, stood in the dark and cold. Without a word, his grandfather waved the man in, and they made their way to the fire.
“Go now, lad,” he said to the boy. As he had a thousand times before.
The young boy slipped into his bedroom, leaving the door open just a crack. He watched as his grandfather helped the man sit on the hearth, offering him a warm cup of tea. Returning to his recliner, he lit up his pipe and began to rock, not a word said between them.
For a while, and for what seemed too long of a while to a boy his age, he spied upon the two as they sat staring into the fire. Then, his eyelids slowly gathering the weight of a long day of chores, they little by little faded to dark.
A cool breeze danced into his room, tickling his face in a taunt to awaken and join it in the waltz of the midnight moon. But it was the sound of voices near the front door that sprung him from his prone position on the floor to risk another look out at the men.
No longer at the fireplace, they stood together, hand in hand, near the opened door. The bedraggled man wore a fresh face, his smile rivaling the warmth of the fireplace. They said some farewells, and the man, a new man by all means in appearance, disappeared into the night.
How does this happen? The young lad had seen this time and again, and his curiosity bubbled over. He slipped back out into the front room, meeting his grandfather at the fire.
“They come in so tired, so weary and sick. How do you help them, Grandpa-pa? Do you put a potion in their tea?”
The old man smiled. “They are indeed worn, sick if you will. But I need not put any magic potions or powders in their tea.” He once again lit the pipe, then leaned back in his chair. “We all make mistakes along our path, my child. Thus to forgive and be forgiven are the elixirs of life. Too often we build our pride too high, hide ourselves in the shadows of our shame. Only when we can tear down this wall will the warmth of compassion shine down upon us. Only then do we feel the weight of life’s burdens lifted from our shoulders.”
He let his gaze meet the boy’s. “Forgive, and allow yourself to be forgiven.”