Lisa sat on the floor of her old room, staring at the box that lay in front of her. It was an old shoe box that she had decorated to become a memory box many years before. Stickers and penciled flowers covered the top and sides. Its edges were worn, the corners of the lid taped so as to keep their shape. It had been three years since Lisa last opened the box. A sudden move to Boston had kept her from packing it. But now that she was back home, she took the time to look again at the memories. Fingering the corners of the box and stroking its cover, Lisa pictured in her mind what was inside. There was a photo of the family trip to the Grand Canyon, a note from her friend telling her that Nick Bicotti liked her, and the Indian arrowhead she had found while on her senior class trip. One by one, she remembered the items in the box, lingering over the sweetest, until she came to the last and only painful memory. She knew what it looked like–a single sheet of paper upon which lines had been drawn to form boxes, 490 of them to be exact. And each box contained a check mark, one for each time.


“How many times must I forgive my brother?”
the disciple Peter had asked Jesus.
“Seven times?”
Lisa’s Sunday school teacher had read Jesus’ surprise answer to the class.
“Seventy times seven.”
Lisa had leaned over to her brother Brent as the teacher continued reading.
“How many times is that?” She whispered.
Brent, though two years younger, was smarter than she was.
“Four hundred and ninety,” Brent wrote on the corner of his Sunday school paper.

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Lisa saw the message, nodded, and sat back in her chair. She watched her brother as the lesson continued. He was small for his age, with narrow shoulders and short arms. His glasses were too large for his face, and his hair always matted in swirls. He bordered on being a nerd, but his incredible skills at everything, especially music, made him popular with his classmates. Brent had learned to play the piano at age four, the clarinet at age seven, and had just begun to play the oboe. His music teachers said he’d be a famous musician someday. There was only one thing at which Lisa was better than Brent–basketball. They played it almost every afternoon after school. Brent could have refused to play, but he knew that it was Lisa’s only joy in the midst of her struggles to get C’s and D’s at school.

Lisa’s attention came back to her Sunday school teacher as the woman finished the lesson and closed with prayer. That same Sunday afternoon found brother and sister playing basketball in the driveway. It was then that the counting had begun. Brent was guarding Lisa as she dribbled toward the basket. He had tried to bat the ball away, got his face near her elbow, and took a shot on the chin.
“Ow!” he cried out and turned away.
Lisa saw her opening and drove to the basket, making an easy lay-up. She gloated over her success but stopped when she saw Brent.
“You okay?” she asked.
Brent shrugged his shoulders.
“Sorry,” Lisa said.
“Really. It was a cheap shot.”
“It’s all right. I forgive you,” he said.
A thin smile then formed on his face.
“Just 489 more times though.”
“Whaddaya mean?” Lisa asked.

“You know . . . what we learned in Sunday school today. You’re supposed to forgive someone 490 times. I just forgave you, so now you have 489 left,” he kidded.
The two of them laughed at the thought of keeping track of every time Lisa had done something to Brent. They were sure she had gone past 490 long ago. The rain interrupted their game, and the two moved indoors.
“Wanna play Battleship?” Lisa asked.
Brent agreed, and they were soon on the floor of the living room with their game boards in front of them. Each took turns calling out a letter and number combination, hoping to hit each other’s ships. Lisa knew she was in trouble as the game went on. Brent had only lost one ship out of five. Lisa had lost three. Desperate to win, she found herself leaning over the edge of Brent’s barrier ever so slightly. She was thus able to see where Brent had placed two of his ships. She quickly evened the score.
Pleased, Lisa searched once more for the location of the last two ships. She peered over the barrier again, but this time Brent caught her in the act.
“Hey, you’re cheating!” He stared at her in disbelief. Lisa’s face turned red.
Her lips quivered. “I’m sorry,” she said, staring at the carpet.
There was not much Brent could say. He knew Lisa sometimes did things like this. He felt sorry that Lisa found so few things she could do well. It was wrong for her to cheat, but he knew the temptation was hard for her.

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“Okay, I forgive you,” Brent said.
Then he added with a small laugh, “I guess it’s down to 488 now, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
She returned his kindness with a weak smile and added, “Thanks for being my brother, Brent.”

Brent’s forgiving spirit gripped Lisa, and she wanted him to know how sorry she was. It was that evening that she made the chart with the 490 boxes. She showed it to him before he went to bed.
“We can keep track of every time I mess up and you forgive me,” she said.
“See, I’ll put a check in each box – like this.”
She placed two marks in the upper left-hand boxes.
“These are for today.”
Brent raised his hands to protest. “You don’t need to keep -”
“Yes I do!” Lisa interrupted.
“You’re always forgiving me, and I want to keep track. Just let me do this!”
She went back to her room and tacked the chart to her bulletin board.

Forgiveness Part 2