The Horse and the Wounded Man: A Tale of Forgiveness
- The Synergistic Effect: The Power of the Group
It has already been argued that we are powerful creative beings that are blessed with an incredible imagination that can bring about healing and transformation. Now what happens when you factor in the power of the group?
It was a cold and wet December day in Riverside, and the rain was coming down like cats and dogs. The street gutters were literally in over their heads in water, working over time. They just couldn’t keep up with the amount of water that the Heavens were displacing. Tommy Parks did not like this time of year. The Christmas music and joy that went around almost made him sick to his stomach. He saw no point in celebrating a birthday of a man that died over two thousand years ago. Why should I give a hoot about Christmas, thought Tommy? Nobody really cares about my birthday! All Tommy knew was that he was getting older every year and that life wasn’t fair. People were out to screw you if you gave them half a chance. He was not going to be another statistic of the commercial Christmas scam. No way! People buying expensive Christmas presents that they simply couldn’t afford didn’t make any sense to Tommy. I’d rather be in a bar downing a pint of Guinness, he thought. Life was too short for foolishness. Right now, Tommy was on his way to his probation officer to discuss the terms of the incident.
“Mr. Parks, Mr. Selini has agreed to not press charges against you,” shared Greg Johnson, his probation officer. “He has worked out a deal with the judge. You are required to serve 500 hours of community service and 100 hours of group therapy.”
“Jacob can go to Hell!” replied Tommy, raising his voice.
“Mr. Parks! You can either choose the community service and group therapy, or you can face the alternative.”
“Prison! The choice is up to you. I think the first choice is the best in my opinion, but that is just my opinion. I’ll let you decide which one works for you.”
“I know when I’m licked. Obviously I don’t want to go to prison.”
“Good! I will contact the judge immediately, as well as Mr. Selini. You don’t realize how lucky you are Mr. Parks! Mr. Selini is very forgiving. He convinced the judge to not throw you in prison. He had a brilliant idea of community service and group therapy. The Ranch where you will be working on Saturdays and Sundays is famous for turning around the lives of some of the most hardened criminals. In addition, the group therapy was also handpicked by Mr. Selini. It is wonderful in assisting individuals in healing emotional wounds.”
“I’m not happy with the choices, but I will do them.”
As Tommy said earlier, life wasn’t fair. It seemed that life was always dealing him bad apples. Nobody seemed to understand the pain he was going through. No one seemed to care. If Jacob really cared about me, he would leave me the Hell alone, thought Tommy. Boy, did he need a drink!
Julie Parks was listening and singing to “Jingle Bell Rock” that was blaring from her car stereo, as she made her way to Jacob Selini’s organic shop. She was quite amazed that the traffic wasn’t too bad. Perhaps people are shopping at the mall, she thought. Julie didn’t mind the rain because she understood and appreciated that it would make things green when spring was upon us. The rain also brought up fond memories of her jumping in water puddles as a kid with her brother. This would drive her mom bonkers. Julie found herself smiling while revisiting this memory. She parked her car in one of the spaces in front of the shop. As Julie made her way in, little Frankie spotted her and gave her a great big hug.
“Hi Frankie,” said Julie. She kissed him on the forehead.
“Hi Julie,” replied little Frankie. “Are you here to pick up the donations?”
“Yes I am. Where’s your dad?”
“He’s coming. He’s grabbing the stuff right now.” Frankie smiled at Julie. She returned the smile.
“There she is,” said Jacob, as he walked towards Julie. He gave her a big hug. “How’s my Earth Angel?”
Julie blushed. “You’re too much, Jacob. So, what do you have for me today?”
Every week, Julie would take donations to the food bank. It brought her great joy knowing this food make a difference in someone’s life. We often take food for granted because we know that there is enough to go around. But for folks that are struggling financially, putting food on the table can be a difficult task.
“I have some fresh fruits and veggies, gourmet coffee, fresh bread, and some can goods. And these are all organic too!” Jacob winked at little Frankie. Frankie winked back.
“You are too kind, Jacob. I also want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping my younger brother. He is a real mess. I have tried to help him, but it only seems to drive him further into self-destruction. He blames it all on our father. Our father abandoned us when we were small children. I have forgiven him and moved on, but Tommy just can’t seem to let go.”
“I understand that he’s hurting inside. I, too, saw the world in a negative light. As a child, I witnessed my father exploiting his workers. He took advantage of the fact they were illegal citizens. He paid them below minimum wage and threatened to call immigration if they tried to give him any trouble. I didn’t realize that I unconsciously remembered this and would overlay this experience onto my future encounters. That is why I would get upset when people would ask for a handout. Just as my father exploited his workers, I thought the world was trying to exploit me.”
“You have come a long way, Jacob. I am very proud of you.” I saw a tear fall from Jacob’s eye. He was truly grateful for all the Earth Angels in his life. He knew the Universe gave us all the necessary tools for healing; however, it was up to us to use them.
“I am very happy I saw the light.” Jacob and Julie both smiled in agreement. Julie felt a tapping on her arm and turned her head to see that it was little Frankie. He had a very big grin on his face. Julie noticed that he was holding something behind his back.
“What do you have there, Frankie?” inquired Julie. Frankie handed Julie his latest artwork. It was a drawing of a rainbow with a pot of gold at one end. There was also a bright yellow sun and a person standing next to the pot of gold.
“The rainbow is about the different colors of love. The pot of gold is the love we share with each other. The sun brightens our lives. It makes me smile and feel happy. This person is you,” stated Frankie, pointing at Julie. Julie immediately felt the warm flow of tears fall down her face. She just loved this child. What a beautiful teacher of love!
“Thank you so much, Frankie! I will cherish this forever.” Julie gave Frankie a big hug and kissed him on the forehead. Julie gave her thanks and said her goodbyes and made her way to the food bank.
It was a pretty good turnout, I thought. All ten people showed up to my Forgiveness Circle. For those that don’t know about this class, I would conduct one every three months and had amazing results. It was a beautiful blessing to watch people make their breakthroughs. I made sure that I had plenty of tissues to go around, as this type of therapy can be very emotional.
“Hi everyone! My name is Sara Simms, and I am going to be your facilitator for the next three months. I just want to say that I have seen miracles happen in this Circle. I have witnessed beautiful transformations. Absolutely amazing! Of course, not everyone is transformed that walks out of here. We are all on different paths. Some of us are just not ready and that’s okay. I just want to let you know that what goes on in this Forgiveness Circle stays in this circle. It is very important that we have a safe and sacred environment. Does anybody have any questions before we start?”
“Yes, when will this be over,” inquired a tall stocky man with long brown hair. “I have a special appointment with my can of Guinness! She doesn’t like it when I’m late.” The class chuckled.
“Mr…” I asked?
“Mr. Parks. You can call me Tommy.”
“Hi Tommy, the class is one and half hours. We will take a ten minute break around 7:45. Does that work for everybody?” The class nodded their heads. “Okay, let’s get started. I will start us off by sharing my story about forgiveness.
“I grew up in an unsupportive environment. My parents wanted me to be an accountant; however, my love was for art. I loved anything to do with art. My parents thought it was ridiculous. ‘You are wasting your time, Sara. You will never make any money with art.’ Every time I would share one of my art pieces with them they would make a rude comment. Pretty soon, I stopped sharing, as my heart couldn’t take anymore rejection. I soon fell into a depression and stopped caring about school. Then, one day, I met a homeless man on the street that was being beat up by some street punks. I chased them away and helped the poor man up. He thanked me. He looked into my eyes and saw the fear. This beautiful soul told me that I need not be afraid anymore. I had the power to make my dreams come true. I didn’t have to run away anymore.” I felt my eyes get wet. I glanced around the room and noticed a few people tear up as well. I noticed Tommy was starring in the distance. “Now, who would like to go next?”
“I would like to go, if that is okay,” stated a lovely woman with long blond hair and a gentle smile. “My name is, Marie, and I would like to share a story about a friend of mine from back East. Tragically, her mother was killed by a drunk driver. And for many years, my friend was very angry with this man that killed her mom. She became severely depressed. She knew this anger was poisoning her soul. Eventually, my friend discovered A Course of Miracles and began to turn her life around. She visited the man and learned that he was a good man that had made a very bad mistake. Once she was able to see through the eyes of compassion, she did everything in her power to release him from prison. And I want to point out, that she was successful. She was able to get her life back and give him a second chance. I just want to say that forgiveness is very freeing.” Tears fell from Marie’s eyes as she shared this story. I found myself tearing up as well. I passed the tissue to Marie. She passed it to the person next to her that was crying as well.
“Thank you very much, Marie, for sharing that beautiful and touching story with us,” I said. “Would anybody like to comment?”
“Marie, your story deeply moved me,” stated a gentle spirit with soulful eyes. “My name is Monique, and I would like to share a beautiful story of forgiveness. Many years ago, I was a very rebellious individual. I got into all sorts of trouble. But at sixteen years of age, my ultimate crime was the stealing of a car. I drove it across state and ended up crashing it. Then, many years later, out of the blue, I saw the lady that I stole the car from at my work. I knew in my heart that I had to talk to her. ‘You are not going to believe this. I am the person that stole your car.’ The lady began to cry. ‘I prayed for you. I prayed that you were safe and okay.’ We hugged each other. It was a beautiful day. We were both transformed.” Monique took a tissue and wiped her eyes. She noticed the person next to her tear up, so she handed the box of tissues to him.
“Thank you, Monique, for sharing. That was beautiful and touching.” I placed my hand on my heart as I said that. “Who would like to go next? We have time for one more.” I saw Tommy raise his hand. I nodded my head.
“I am glad to hear your stories of forgiveness, but I am never going to forgive my old man. He abandoned me when I was seven years old. He promised to take me to Disneyland on my birthday, but he never came back. He went to Florida with some woman. You know something. This is a waste of time. I am not going to sit here and watch people cry like a baby. You guys are weak! I am out of here. This was a complete waste of time.” Tommy stormed out of the room and slammed the door. I noticed that many people looked down. They didn’t know how to respond to Tommy’s outburst.
“Class, it is okay. Not everyone is ready to share their story. Some have been deeply hurt in the past. It is important to view them from the eyes of compassion. I want to personally thank everyone for being here. I’m very proud of you. I will see you next week.”
I found myself at the lake with Melissa’s dad, Mr. Jenkins, and Sunshine, his white, orange, and brown tabby. Sunshine was enjoying the animals and scenery. Then, we noticed a curious brother and sister make their way to the baby carriage. Mr. Jenkins’ winked at me. He knew something was about to happen.
“Oh, you like my granddaughter, Sunshine, do you?” asked Mr. Jenkins. The children giggled and waved at Sunshine. They ran back to their parents to share the news. We both noticed the father shake his head when his son revealed that there was a cat in the baby carriage. Mr. Jenkins smiled at me. “Sara, it is very important to not abandon the little kid in you. It is very sad to see people grow up and become bitter.” I nodded my head in agreement.
“I don’t mean to change the subject, Mr. Jenkins, but I am very much interested in hearing your story of forgiveness.”
“Sure, my dear, it will be my pleasure. When my wife died, I was completely devastated. We were married for forty years when she was killed by a driver that fell asleep at the wheel. I was angry for a very long time. I was angry at the guy who took my wife’s life, but I was also angry at myself for not being able to protect her. As you already know, my loving daughter, Melissa, did everything in her power to try to comfort and console me. However, at that moment, I wasn’t ready to let it go until this beautiful bundle of fur came into my life.” He kissed Sunshine on the top of the head. She purred. “Sunshine taught me about unconditional love and compassion. Once my heart and eyes opened, I made an effort to talk to the person that was responsible for my wife’s death to learn his story. I learned that this man worked two jobs to support his family. His wife stayed home to take care of their child that was mentally and physically handicapped. When I went home, I sobbed and sobbed. By being able to see through the eyes of compassion, I was able to forgive this person, as well as myself. Sunshine and I visit them every week. Their son is very happy to see Sunshine. She rubs against him, purring loudly. Sara, I can’t express how liberating forgiveness is. It has freed this old man’s soul!” Mr. Jenkins wiped the tears from his eyes.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Jenkins, for sharing your beautiful story with me. It touched my heart, deeply.” Mr. Jenkins smiled and began to pet Sunshine. “I don’t mean to be rude Mr. Jenkins, but Melissa and I are having coffee at the new coffee shop in Riverside.”
“Enjoy. Tell Melissa I said hi.”
Tommy drove his ’99 Nissan pick-up truck to The Ranch. When he got out, a man in his early sixties greeted him.
“Hi, you must be Tommy,” said Samuel Birdfeather, extending his hand. Tommie shook hands out of politeness. “Welcome to The Ranch. I’m sure you will fit in wonderfully.”
“Just tell me what you want me to do old man! I am not here for my health, you know. I am here because the judge is making me come here.” Tommy was surprised that Samuel didn’t react to his statement. He was completely calm.
“Sure. From eight to twelve, I expect you to clean up the barn, including brushing the horses. From twelve to one, is lunch time. My wife usually makes us lunch. From one to four, I expect you to take care of the gardens and orchids. That includes weeding and watering. Is that clear?”
“As it is already a quarter till, you can begin work in fifteen minutes. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. Good luck.” Samuel waved, but Tommy ignored it. I will just serve my time, thought Tommy, and before I know it I will be free. Although Tommy hated doing chores, he was very much interested in working with animals. When he was young, his father would take him to the zoo. He would also take him into the mountains in which they would connect with nature. However, Tommy, for some reason, avoided doing these things as an adult. It brought up painful memories. But, now, he seemed drawn to be with animals again. Go figure. After Tommy cleaned up the barn, he began to brush the horses. He was surprised in how calming it was.
“You like brushing, don’t you?” The horse nodded his head. “Good. I enjoy doing it. Would you like to be my friend?” The horse nodded his head. “Thank you. I need someone to talk to. My father used to take me to see animals when I was young. That made me very happy.” The horse nodded his head. “You know something. I feel I can tell you anything.” A tear fell from Tommy’s eyes. The horse rubbed his head against his hand.
For lunch, Samuel’s wife, a beautiful Native American in her late fifties, with long flowing black hair prepared turkey burgers, coleslaw, and fresh sliced fruit. The burger was absolutely delicious. She put wonderful spices in it that made your taste buds dazzle with delight.
“Wow! This is good,” Tommy announced.
“I’m glad you like it,” replied Jessica Birdfeather. “I enjoy cooking.” Jessica smiled. Tommy felt like smiling, but he suppressed it.
“Hey, do you mind if I take the brown and white horse for a ride? I will stay longer to make up for the lost time.”
“Sure, the horse’s name is Freespirit.”
“Thanks!” As Tommy said this, a black cat and a German Shepherd walked into the kitchen together. “Wow! These two are friends!” Jessica nodded her head.
“The black cat is named Cairo and the German Shepherd is named Natasha. They are very wise souls. I have learned so much from these two.”
Tommy was feeling on top of the world. He felt so free riding Freespirit. He saw a flock of finches flying across the sky. It made him smile. The wind was rather refreshing, as it made its way through the trees.
“Thank you, my friend, for allowing me to ride you.” The horse nodded its head, saying “you’re welcome.” “What’s over there?” Tommy pointed to something to the left that caught his eye. As they made their way, a loud shot rang out. A couple of young boys were playing around with a shotgun and accidentally fired it. The shot startled Freespirt causing him to buck, throwing off Tommy. Tommy landed on his back and head, while is left leg came crashing down on a large rock. He was in intense pain. It was too painful to move. Where’s Freespirit, he thought? He must have run away out of fear. Tommy called out for help. However, the pain was too much. He blacked out.
"Our Animal Friends Teach Us Kindness and Compassion"
Mr. and Mrs. Birdfeather and I were gathered around Tommy’s bed. He was admitted to the Riverside General Hospital. He suffered two fractured ribs, a shattered leg, and a slight concussion. Tommy opened his eyes. He had been unconscious for nearly two days. He looked around and smiled. I showed him the beautiful bouquet of flowers that the class and I got for him. I read the card to him. He cried. He was touched by their warm words of encouragement. Tommy, then, inquired about his rescue. Samuel explained what happened.
“Freespirit called Cairo and Natasha for help. They lead me to you. I saw that you had fallen and called 911. Both Jessica and I are glad that you are alright.”
“How’s Freespirit? I miss him. He has taught me about unconditional love and compassion. For so many years I hated my dad for deserting my sister and I, but for some reason it doesn’t matter anymore. I realized that the anger was destroying my life. I have forgiven him and myself. I just want my father back in my life. I love you dad.” Jessica nodded at Samuel. He placed his hand on top of Tommy’s hand.
“I love you too, my son.”
Tommy couldn’t stop the tears. It was the happiest day of his life.