FORGIVING GRANDMA'S BULLIES

By Mohan Karulkar: Chances are you've heard of Karen Klein, the poor bus monitor / grandma who was subjected to vicious verbal harassment by 4 seventh-graders while riding on a school bus. The incident was videotaped and ended up on YouTube, and of course the outrage and support has been universal.

Shortly after the story broke, two of the students apologized, via official statements read by Anderson Cooper:

"I feel really bad about what I did.  I wish I had never done those things. If that had happened to someone in my family, like my mother or grandmother, I would be really mad at the people who did that to them."

"I am so sorry for the way I treated you. When I saw the video I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again."

Klein didn't really buy it, and I don't blame her. She knows the kids, so she's probably a good judge of their sincerity.  They put her in a world of hurt, and she has to decide for herself what to do.

What about the rest of us? What are we feeling right now?

Sadness for Karen?  Maybe relief for her, for all the support she's received?  Unpleasant memories of being bullied?  Or perhaps guilt at having been a bully?

And what about the kids?  Do we hate them?  Do they sicken us?  Do we want them bullied?  Do we hope they disappear forever? Do we want even worse than that?  For their families too?

I've read through what I can.  Collectively, we all seem to feel something along that spectrum.   But what about when they ask for forgiveness?  Because surely, with the anger of a nation pointed directly at you -- a 12 year old -- you will wish, if not ask outright, for forgiveness.

Do we forgive?

Normally, I'd leave the question hanging.  But this time around, I'm going to go ahead and answer it.

Yes, we should forgive them.  We kind of have to, as unpalatable as it might seem.  Why?  Because unconditional forgiveness is definite and universal -- you either give it or you don't. No confusion, no grey area.  Consequences, punishment, penance ... those are all relative, and have no end point we can define or agree on.  Arguing over that stuff does nothing to strengthen us as a culture or as a people.  Those arguments draw blood, and only vultures feed on blood.

People of the Second Chance is where the vulture comes to die.  And while that might not be news to some, I believe it is news to the hundreds of new voices we welcomed this very week ... people who thought no such place existed.

It's easy to demand an apology when you don't think one will come.  It takes a much bigger person to accept one when it does.  And an even bigger person if it never comes.  I'm continually striving to be that bigger person, and I believe many of you are too.

If the kids are expelled from school, you won't see me picketing to have them reinstated.  If they are banned from sports, you won't see me starting a letter campaign.  But when the dust settles, and the rest of their life comes calling, you can bet my heart will (maybe grudgingly) say "I forgive you." I may never know them, but I'll know the freedom that brings.

If that offends you, well -- like it's been said before -- get in line.  But if you're ready for something more, step OUT of line and be that bigger person, no matter how much it hurts.  Because if you can forgive 4 cruel kids you've never met, you can forgive anyone.

When asked by Anderson Cooper if she thinks the kids are bad, Karen responded: "Not deep down. But when they get together, things happen.  Sometimes worse than other times."

That's as true for them as it is for us.  When we get together, let's make grace  happen.

Share your thoughts below.  All sides are welcome, but please play nice.  And yes, we mean it.

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