Independence Day is a time to get together with family, grill out, and watch fireworks. It is a time of the year that everyone looks forward to because of the atmosphere and all of the celebration. But there is always something that happens at those same celebrations that we all hold in high regard: we bump into people who we don’t exactly have the best relationships with. What should you do when it happens? How should you handle the situation?
I grew up on the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota (which is an hour north of Duluth to give you some perspective) – specifically the town of Eveleth. It is well known during the anniversary of the birth of our nation, not necessarily for the fireworks or the parades (which are spectacular for how small of a town it is) but for the atmosphere, the tradition, and the Eveleth Clown Band. There is a street dance, amazing food vendors, and plenty of candy for kids.
Every year, whether it is at a parade, at the street dance, or in line for one of the food vendors, I always bump into somebody from my past. It’s not just the same person, but many who I haven’t had the best relationships with. We never got along during high school, things ended on a sour note, we just lost contact, or there was one argument that absolutely destroyed my relationship with them. It happens every year, and I’m positive that I’m not the only one.
So what should we do when the awkward encounter is upon us? Here are some thoughts that I hope you keep in mind.
Jesus taught us to love everyone, especially our enemies! We say it at every Mass – “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Whatever it was that ended that relationship; that friendship, we should forgive them. It doesn’t matter who was right or who did what, because it was probably a long time ago, and probably something small. Forgiveness doesn’t even mean that everything has to be okay, that you can’t still disagree with them or that you might not be over whatever happened. Forgiveness means that you are willing to move forward, and that is the first step towards healing. Maybe that person that you need to forgive is even yourself.
Each person that we can have that connection, that relationship, that friendship with is a different way of catching a glimpse of God. He created them just like He created you and me; with all of our quirks, styles, looks, and opinions. Not only can we learn things from them, but they can learn things about God from you.
Here’s what I want you to do: treat every awkward encounter with someone this holiday (and every day, really) as if you were the only person that can bring them closer to heaven.
You are their looking glass to the Father’s love for them. Despite what either of you might think, they need you, and you need them. We need the help of everybody that we can get in this spiritual war.
Building bridges with people is a good idea even without the faith aspect. In life, you never know when somebody will have the perfect connection that you need, or say the perfect thing that you need to hear to keep moving forward. This life is strange, and nobody knows what is going to happen next, but it is best to be on good terms with as many people as you can be in case the need arises. My grandparents always tell me stories of how they bump into people that they grew up with at places that are far away from home, and they are so happy to see each other and they get not only a good story from that encounter, but normally a surprise adventure at the same time.
So this Fourth of July, build your bridges. Try to build as many as you can with long lost friends, family, and yes, even exes. It may turn out that they are not ready or willing to forgive you or to start a new friendship. That’s fine! You did everything you could, and that should make you happy, because you are answering God’s call and choosing love instead of resentment.
May the Holy Spirit guide you and keep you safe,