She gave a short cry of shock. I turned around to see her mouth open in amazed confusion and her arms outstretched, a cup in one hand. When she selected a cup from the shelf for her morning tea, she did not expect it to shower her with coffee.
Her coral shirt that looked beautiful against her pale skin and curly dark hair was soaked. I reached for a cloth from the sink as she went for the paper towels. My apologies were met with her reassurances the coffee wasn’t hot and there was no harm. Together we knelt to wipe the puddle on the tiled floor.
“I was trying to find the one with hearts on it,” she explained. I kept my shamed face in a downward gaze as I sponged.
It was the morning of the third day of the retreat. I was on kitchen duty and had arrived cheerfully early for chores. Without a thought, I rested my cup— coffee on the inside and hearts on the outside—on the shelf that housed empty mugs.
There it sat, just waiting to douse the start of Debra’s day.
She quickly headed back to her room to change. Meanwhile, I continued to contain the lump in my throat so as to not cry over spilt coffee.
Debra was a minister. Though I’d only known her for two days, her gentleness was undeniable. She returned for breakfast freshened and with a kind smile.
“It was nothing. Really,” she said, touching me gently on the arm. While I did not doubt Debra’s sincerity, my embarrassment lingered. I imagined the mess I’d made of her morning being bigger than it was. She forgave as quickly as the coffee splashed. Me forgiving myself was another matter.
I replayed the scene in my mind throughout the morning. How thoughtless I’d been. How I turned someone’s peaceful retreat morning into an irritation and inconvenience. How I’d made a mess of it.
That afternoon Debra approached me. “I have a favor to ask,” she said. “I washed my shirt and hung it on the clothesline. I’m afraid I’m going to forget it when we pack to leave tomorrow. Would you remind me?”
In her generosity, Debra offered me an avenue for making amends. Rather than allow me to wallow in overthinking the incident, she allowed me a path to restoration. Instead of focusing on my failure, I could focus on helping a friend.
That evening our paths crossed in the narrow hallway where our rooms were just a few doors apart.
“Be sure to remember your shirt,” I said happily.
“Got it!” she smiled back.
Debra forgave from the get go. Even greater was her rendering of a way I could shift from my past mistake to being helpful and connect anew.
Redemption filled my heart to the brim.
Have you been obsessing over a small mistake?
Is there a path to redemption you can offer someone who has hurt you?
If you weren’t focusing on a failure, what might you focus on?