Desmond and the Very Mean Word ISBN: 9781406343915
Published by Walker Books Ltd, 2013
Forgiveness is the theme of this moving story, a true experience in the life of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Desmond is terrifically proud of his new bicycle, the only one in the township and very special to him. As he rides it to show Father Trevor, the kind and understanding priest to the township, he is blocked by a number of white boys, the leader of whom has red hair,and when he rides at speed through them, they shout a 'mean word'. We are left to imagine what that word is - not a hard task! When he gets to Father Trevor, he pours out what has happened, and when Father Trevor asks if Desmond can forgive the boys, he is adamant that he never will. He will 'get them back.' That is the problem, the priest explains; the 'getting back' will go on forever. Desmond goes away with the mean word still ringing in his ears, and he can't forget it. Seeing the same boys on the way to school the next day, he shouts another mean word and pedals away quickly. Father Trevor explains that 'When we hurt someone...it hurts us too.' But still Desmond continues to feel the power of his hurt feelings. Slowly, after Desmond has seen the red haired boy being bullied by his brothers, he begins to feel sorry for him, and when they encounter each other in a shop, it is possible for Desmond to say he is sorry that he said the mean word to the boy. The boy is startled, but begins to make his own apology, but when he finds it difficult, Desmond is able to say, 'I forgive you.' The older boy gives Desmond a piece of chocolate, and Desmond rides away feeling the complete happiness and freedom of having forgiven and been forgiven. The pictures in this extraordinary book are strong and full of vitality, the faces very expressive of the strong feelings going on. The colours too are vibrant and full of life and the full effect is one of strength out of weakness. We learn in an afterward that Father Trevor was Trevor Huddleston, who eventually became Archbishop Huddleston, who was such a major player in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. An important and life-enhancing book.