My journey in writing began in earnest on a December evening in 2003. Betty and I had stopped for supper at Applebee’s after some Christmas shopping. As I looked at the various pieces of memorabilia and stuff on their wall I saw an old football helmet. It had look used and even had a few battle scars. I began to wonder what story it had to tell. At that point imagination took over and I began to create a story around that football helmet. What followed in the next few months were a series of stories prompted by some article on Applebee’s walls. Each story portrayed one of the nine fruit of the Spirit. The stories originally had a wrapper story explaining where the writing prompt came from, Applebee’s became Finnegan’s Inn. While I’ve removed the wrapper story that introduced the writing prompt I have not re-edited the stories. In other words, they’re a bit rough. Without further ado, the story on gentleness is titled The Nurse’s Hat.
The ambulance driver killed the siren as they rounded the comer of the St. Luke’s Hospital and headed for the emergency room entrance. With the lights still flashing, the driver backed the ambulance into the designated area. There was already an ER crew standing by ready to receive the contents of the ambulance. As soon as the wheels stopped, the back door of the ambulance flew open. The team from the hospital rushed forward to retrieve a middle aged man that had lost control of his pickup and wheeled him into the emergency room. On the way in, the EMT handed off some paperwork to one of the nurses. The nurse took a quick look at the driver’s license and read the name – William Anderson – she froze. The ER doctor noticed and said, ‘Amanda what are you doing, let’s go, it’s going to be close if we’re going to save this guys life.” Amanda didn’t move. The ER doc continued down the hall and yelled, “AMANDA ’’
“Billy Anderson, I hate you,” Amanda screamed at Billy’s back as he ran away. Amanda had been walking to Christian Doctrine class when Billy ran up behind her and pushed her into a snowbank. Amanda and her books landed in the snow along with a report for Christian Doctrine that she had worked most of the night to finish.
It was the latest in a long line of abuses that Billy had inflicted on Amanda. They were both seniors in the class of 1965, and Billy had been trouble for Amanda for three and a half years. He had started with water balloons the first week of their freshman year. Billy did pester other students, but he particularly liked to pick on Amanda. It was never enough to get in serious trouble but enough to be very annoying. The worst was probably when he had filled the lock to Amanda’s dorm room with chunky peanut butter. No one could ever pin the prank on Billy, but Amanda was sure that it was him.
After Billy disappeared, apparently unfazed by Amanda’s declaration, Amanda stooped down to pick up her books. “Oh no,” she quietly moaned. Her books were ok, just a little snow covered. But her report was ruined; it had fallen in a slush puddle and was soaked. She tried to clean it up, but it still looked pretty sad. “Better get going and see what Professor Kline wants me to do about this,” she said to herself.
After Amanda got settled in her seat, the first thing Professor Kline told the class was, “I hope that you all remembered to bring your reports today. Remember, I told you that there would be a 25 point deduction for late work.”
“Oh great,” Amanda thought to herself.
“I will collect your reports and the end of today’s class. Today’s topic is forgiveness…” Professor Kline reminded them of Jesus’ answer to the question: “How many times should I forgive someone?” He also talked about a parable that Jesus told about the wicked servant, the one where a servant was forgiven a huge debt by the king and then the servant went out and threw some other servant in prison because he couldn’t pay back the lunch money he’d borrowed. When the king found out, he was extremely angry and threw the wicked servant in jail. Professor Kline went on to explain why forgiveness is one of Christianity’s central themes.
At the end of class, he had the students come forward and hand in their reports. “I’m sorry Amanda I can’t accept your report. I can’t even read it,” Professor Kline told her. The report had gotten wet enough that the typewriter ink had run.
“But it wasn’t my fault. I finished it last night, but on my way to class Billy Anderson knocked the books out of my hands and the report landed in a puddle,” Amanda replied.
“It’s ten o’clock now; I’ll give you a twenty four extension to turn it in. After that, I’ll consider it to be late,” Professor Kline offered. Amanda did some quick mental calculations; it was going to be next to impossible to get the report done on time considering the rest of her work load. She considered another protest but decided against it. “Ok professor, thanks.”
“I’ll never forgive Billy Anderson for this,” Amanda told her roommate Sara. “I have two finals tomorrow and another ten page report for Advanced Anatomy. And now I have to retype this whole Christian Doctrine report. Arrrghhh.”
“I feel for you Amanda. I don’t know how you’re going to get it done. I wish I could help but I have three exams tomorrow that I have to cram for tonight,” Sara said.
“Oh I understand. I just don’t know how I’m going to pull it off,” she said.
Amanda worked most of the night typing reports and studying. She managed to get everything finished and get three hours of sleep, but she was not able to cram for the exams the way she had planned. Her first class the next morning was at 8:00; she got up at 7:45 and got ready as fast as she could. She ran across campus to face the first exam. It went awful; she had a hard time concentrating on the questions. Amanda was certain that she had failed it. ‘I’ll never forgive him,” was her one recurring thought.
After the 8:00 class, she ran over to Professor Kline’s office to drop off the retyped report. Professor Kline looked at his wall clock, 9:45. “Good, I’m glad you made it in time, thanks,” he said as Amanda handed him the report. “Are you ok? You don’t look like yourself.”
“I’ll be ok,” she said. “I didn’t get much sleep last night, all because of Billy,” she said as she glanced at the clock. ‘I’ve got to get going. Biochem starts in ten minutes.” Amanda turned and began walking towards the door.
“Amanda, hold up a minute,” Professor Kline said. Amanda stopped and turned. “What time is your last class over with today?” he asked.
“2:30, why?” she replied.
“I’d like to see you in my office after that and review some things with you, would that that time work for you?”
“Sure, I guess,” Amanda said. But her thoughts were, “Thanks Billy, now you owe me a nap.”
“Great, see you then,” Professor Kline said. Amanda thought the request strange but didn’t think much more about it as she hurried towards Biochemistry class.
“Amanda, I’m glad you could make it. Have a seat,” Professor Kline said as he offered her a chair. Amanda’s last class was another exam; it didn’t go so well. “So, Amanda, how was your day?” asked Professor Kline.
“Awful, I had two finals today. I’m afraid I didn’t do so well thanks to Billy Anderson,” she replied.
“That’s one of the things I’d like to talk to you about. But first let me say that I already graded your report; it was very good.” Professor Kline handed her report back to her. On the first page Amanda took notice of the grade, an A-.
“Thank you Professor Kline.”
“That report tells me that you have a mental grasp the material I presented in class. You should be glad, however, that I don’t grade on the application of the material. I’m afraid that you would receive a much lower grade.” Professor Kline looked down has he said this and shook his head slightly.
Amanda was confused about what Professor Kline was trying to tell her. “I’m not sure that I follow. If you’re trying to say I’m not a good Christian, well I just don’t understand. I’m faithful at church and chapel; I attend a couple of different small groups, try to read my Bible, and pray every day.”
“Those things are all good, but what I’m talking about is putting what you have learned in my class and the other places that you mentioned into practice,” he said.
“But I thought I was,” she replied, still not grasping his meaning.
“Let me help you a bit,” he paused “Billy Anderson?” Professor Kline said.
“What about Billy? Other than he’s made my life miserable, especially the last 24 hours,” she said.
“And what was yesterday’s lecture about?”
Amanda thought for a moment. “I don’t remember,” she confessed.
“Does forgiveness ring a bell?” he asked.
“Yeah, that was it, but I still don’t… oh you think that I should forgive Billy is that it?” she asked.
“That is the general idea. I was hoping to get the two of you together this afternoon, but that didn’t work out. Billy’s last class was yesterday, and he won’t be back,” Professor Kline said.
Amanda smiled, “The College kicked him out?”
“No, he graduated mid-term,” Professor Kline said. “But the question you just asked says a lot about your attitude towards Billy. You thought the worst of him and relished the thought.”
“So why are we having this conversation? I can’t forgive him, so what’s the use? Besides, I’ll never see him again anyway because he lives in another state,” Amanda said.
“We are having this talk for two reasons: the first being what the Bible says in Galatians 6:1, ’Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.’ and whether you admit it or not unforgivness is a sin. The second reason is… well let me ask you this question. You’re in the nursing program, correct?”
“Yeah, so,” Amanda replied
“What are you going to do if someday in the course of your job you need to provide care for Billy?”
“I’d ask someone else,” she replied.
“Really, if he’s laying on a gurney dying, you’d turn you back on him?”
“I don’t know,” Amanda said.
“AMANDA, I need you now!” screamed the doctor.
“I don’t know,” Amanda said to herself. “Wait a minute, yes I do. Lord Jesus, forgive me for carrying this load of unforgivness and bitterness. Help me to help Billy, and help me to forgive him. Amen.” with that Amanda sprinted down the hall to the ER room.
A few days later…
Amanda walked into Billy’s room. “How are we today Mr. Anderson?” she asked.
“Not bad considering. Hey aren’t you Amanda Patterson, OCC?” he asked.
“That’s me, long time no see,” Amanda said.
“I’ve been hoping that I’d run into you someday but not like this,” Billy said.
“To be honest, I was hoping that I’d never see you again,” Amanda replied.
“I deserve that. I was pretty awful to you. Look, Amanda, I really need to apologize for the way I treated you in college. Will you forgive me?” Billy asked.
“Professor Kline warned me a long time ago that this day might come. I had made up my mind to walk the other way if you ever came through the hospital doors. But when I read your driver’s license and saw your name, God reminded me of a talk I had with Professor Kline. I forgive you; can you forgive me for hating you all these years?” Amanda asked.
“I think so,” he said.
“One more, make that two more questions,” Amanda said.
“Ok,” he said.
“Why did you pick on me? And did you that put the chunky peanut butter in my lock?” Amanda said.
“I did do the peanut butter. Why I picked on you is harder to answer. I guess because I liked you. I know that that is not much of an answer,” Billy said.
“You’re right, that’s not much of an answer. Maybe after you’ve laid there for a while you can come up with something better. And you are going to be here for a while. You’re pretty beaten up from that accident,” Amanda said. “By the way, I need to give you this shot. Can you roll over a little?”
“Are you sure you’ve forgiven me?” Billy asked.
“Let’s find out shall we,” Amanda said jokingly.