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THE FARMHAND (AND FORGIVENESS)


Forgiveness was the most important lesson best selling author Tony Hillerman learned as a kid. His story goes:


I was 14 when Mr. Ingram knocked on our farmhouse door in Sacred Heart, Okla. (pop. 38). The old sharecropper lived about a mile down the road and needed help mowing an alfalfa field. It was the first time I was actually paid for work -- about 12 cents an hour, not bad when you consider it was 1939 and we were still mired in the Great Depression.


Mr. Ingram liked the job I did and ended up hiring me to dig postholes. I even helped to deliver a calf. One day he found an old truck that was stuck in the soft, sandy soil of the melon patch. It was loaded up with melons that someone had tried to steal before their truck got bogged down.


Mr. Ingram explained that the truck?s owner would be returning soon, and he wanted me to watch and learn. It wasn?t long before a local guy with a terrible reputation for fighting and stealing showed up with his two full-grown sons. They looked really angry.


Calmly Mr. Ingram said, "Well, I see you was wantin? to buy some watermelons."


There was a long silence before the man answered, "Yeah, I guess so. What are you gettin? for ?em?"


"Twenty-five cents each."


"Well, I guess that would be fair enough if you help me get my truck out of here."


It turned out to be our biggest sale of the summer, and a nasty, perhaps violent, incident had been avoided. After they left, Mr. Ingram smiled and said to me, "Son, if you don?t forgive your enemies, you?re going to run out of friends."


Mr. Ingram died a few years later, but I have never forgotten him or what he taught me on my first job.


Source: ?What I Learned on My Paper Route?. Compiled by Daniel Levine. Reader?s Digest, March 2002.

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