Reconciliation: A Family Story

By Alleah Heise on December 20, 2018

When we set out to cover reconciliation for our Christmas issue, we canvassed you, our readers and our network, for compelling acts of forgiveness that you either received or witnessed. From that inquiry comes the following story on forgiveness.   

A Growing Business Provokes Family Opposition  

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a family business focused on poultry production set a course for sustained growth. The patriarch of the family was in the process of not just buying other, smaller companies; he was also making necessary repairs to the existing family-owned farms. When the opportunity arose to purchase a farm that would expand the family birder permit to 3,000,000 – effectively tripling the size of the farm – the patriarch knew this was an opportunity he could not refuse.   

Given the size of the farm, there was community opposition to that dramatic growth. That community opposition resulted in articles being written in the local papers and conversations in town. One of the biggest opponents of the growing farm was the patriarch’s own sister. She assisted in the publication of stories reporting the family business was cruel to animals, that their goal was to make money at the expense of the locals, that they were even criminals. These articles did not stop the family’s growth goals and the patriarch was eventually able to secure the permits, though the relationship with his sister was understandably strained.  

Ten Years Later….  

Fast forward ten years, and this same sister and her husband found themselves in dire financial straits. The hard times they encountered were going to require them to sell their land, their home, and most of their remaining assets. When the patriarch heard of his sister’s trouble, he went and asked her if it was true. When she confirmed the situation, he made her an offer: he would buy her land, home, and assets on a ten-year contract. She could live in the home rent free and, at the end of the ten years, she and her husband could purchase everything back. The sister was astounded at her brother’s generosity and took the deal. She apologized for her part in the opposition to the farm’s growth. Her brother, the patriarch, forgave her.   

When I asked another family member why he thought the patriarch forgave his sister, he said, “Family is family. You always do what you can to help them. Even if they’re horrible to you, you do everything you can to mend the relationship.”  

The compelling act of forgiveness did not immediately make everything perfect. There were hurt feelings that remained after the sister passed away about half-way through the arranged purchase of assets. However, this family modeled an important lesson for all of us, a point Bill suggests in his article. Reconciliation does not happen overnight, but families can be repaired, one mended relationship at a time.