We all walked in together, friendlily chatting while heading to a table in the back. There was Gayle- a publishing representative, Me- cameras in tow, Chris- a fortysomething IBM regional sales manager living with his second wife, his son, and two step children. Cameron was the other member of our party. Five years ago, when Cameron was seventeen years-old, he drove drunk, causing the accident that killed Chris’s first wife and two of his children.
The air was easy. Chris and Cameron got Diet Cokes, ribs, and salad. I slid my iphone to the center of the table with permission to record our conversation. We soon forgot that the phone was there and moved toward a conversation that nobody would ever hope to have.
Chris leaned toward Cameron with his elbows on the table and rested, mouth on thumbs, listening. The way a dad would listen to a son talk about college. Occasionally their eyes would meet. Cameron’s eyes were moist, but not weepy. Chris had the same look. But, it wasn’t unique to this conversation. We met an hour before, talking about nothing, and they had the same sympathetic air. Conversation was easy. This is just how they are.
“How long were you in jail?” I asked.
“About 30 months.”
“What did you do?”
“Studied a lot.”
“What was your best read?”
“Man’s search for Meaning, Victor Frankl. My parent’s brought it to me. I was the goody-goody prisoner.”
Our conversation was halted shortly by a text from Hayley, Cameron’s girlfriend, a college student.
“She’s been texting me all day,” Cameron smiled. Chris chuckled.
“Can I see it?”
“Sure.” He flipped through the texts. “This one is good.”
Hayley had heard him on the Glenn Beck radio program an hour prior to lunch.
“...You are such an amazing man and I am so proud of you. Call or text me when you get a chance ok! I love you so so much and I am seriously the luckiest girl on the planet...”
We moved onto forgiveness and the accident. Chris had to take a call, so Gayle and I spoke.
She told me, “when Chris was in the car, he looked over and saw that his wife and children had obviously been killed... he felt a voice tell him ‘let it go’... At that moment, in the car, he forgave Cameron.”
Chris got off the phone.
I asked, “you didn’t need Cameron to apologize first?”
“Apologies are irrelevant... Forgiving Cameron let us both move on,” Chris taught. Chris is soft spoken, but not quiet. He was so approachable that the interview had no edge, everything seemed in bounds.
“When it comes down to it. We all need mercy. We all depend on grace,” Chris added.
I asked Cameron, “has this affected how you interact with people? Surely, somebody has said something offensive to you since all of this happened.”
“Yeah,” he answered. “But I have never felt mad. I understand.”
“It seems like your tolerance to offense might be a little higher than normal?” I asked, tongue in cheek.
“Yeah,” he smiled back.
Chris had to take another call and Gayle and I resumed our conversation.
“When Chris was sixteen years-old he hit two kids with his car. A five year-old and a three year-old. One of them was killed. Chris feels like he was uniquely prepared to be in this situation with Cameron,” she added.
He finished the call and added his regrets that the family of the children was devestated by the accident. The parents of the kids were divorced not long after the accident. He hoped to avoid the same fate.
“I hope that someday when we’re all together reviewing our life with God, that we might look back and say that ‘all of this has been worth it’.”
Tomorrow, Cameron will head back to college without a burden, but with a mandate to share the grace he’s received.
For now though, forgiveness is newsworthy.