THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Slowly opening my iPad, I went to my Facebook account and typed in her name.
Marie. (*Name has been changed)
My 1st cousin. A cousin I have never met.
“How do you approach a cousin you’ve never met before?” I wondered.
Putting my uncertainty aside, I sent her a private message.
“Hello, Marie! We’ve never met, but I’m your 1st cousin. It would be fun to hear from you sometime. I hope you are well.”
“There,” I thought. “I did it!” It wasn’t much, but it was a start. I had finally reached out to my long, lost cousin.
With anticipation, I waited for a reply. To my great surprise and delight, that reply came within a few short minutes.
“Hello there! Absolutely, I would love to meet you and your family sometime.”
“I wonder where she lives?” I thought to myself.
Scrolling to her profile at the top of the page, I read what was written next to LOCATION and then paused, stunned.
She lives only 30 minutes from me!
I share the exciting news with her and we promise to meet up in the near future.
MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME
A few weeks later she emailed me. Her dad was coming to visit. Would my family like to join them for dinner?
Would we ever! I jumped at the chance to have dinner with my uncle and the cousin I’ve never met.
That night, my uncle barbecued the chicken as he reminisced about his life— stories about his side of the family I’ve never heard before: some, happy memories; others, not so much.
“I have a lot of regrets about how I treated my parents and siblings,” he said, “but I can’t change what happened in the past.” He paused for a moment. “I left the church, too,” he finally said.
“Well, it’s never too late to come back to the church,” I said without hesitating.
“Well…um,” he started to say, before letting his response die out, leaving me with the distinct impression that he didn’t think he could ever be worthy enough for the church.
The conversation turned to my grandma.
“Was grandma as wonderful as everyone says she was?” I asked my uncle. I was only four when she passed away and don’t have any memories of her.
“Yes, she was all that and more,” he said.
My cousin, who is grandma’s namesake, chimed in, “I’m named after grandma, but know nothing about her. Will you tell me about her?”
Uncle and I happily shared with her many stories and bits of information about grandma.
“I’ll send you more information later,” I promised.
“Good,” she said. “My husband and I love doing genealogy, but we’ve reached a dead end on his side of the family. I’d love to receive any information you can send me about my side of the family.”
After dinner, my children played happily with their newly-found 2 1/2-year-old 2nd cousin, a cousin they’ve come to adore.
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“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32)
I sat back in my chair, relishing the connection that was taking place within my family.
As I sat listening to the conversation that night, I noticed something curious. Both my uncle and my cousin had had similar experiences in their early lives: loneliness, disappointment, the feeling of being unwanted, the death of their mother at a young age. But they chose different paths.
My uncle chose to alienate his family and his religion. He made choices that hurt himself and those he loves. He chose to be angry and bitter. Now, he wallows in regret and self-doubt.
My cousin, on the other hand, chose forgiveness and love. She chose family and happiness and hard work. She is a beacon of light. She radiates peace.
Both are stories of forgiveness: one, a story of a man of regrets, trying to forgive himself, and hoping against all hope that others will forgive him too; the other, the story of a daughter who, despite the great trials she’s faced, has chosen to forgive unconditionally.
This is a story of a broken family being reunited and healed through the atoning power of Jesus Christ, a story of hope and change and forgiveness, a story I’m so grateful to be able to witness first hand.
And it all started with a simple Facebook message.
“Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts.” David E. Sorensen
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