By Lawrence Powell
Michael Foley’s capacity for forgiveness is inspiring people by the thousands, but the Lequille father whose groceries and Christmas presents were stolen from the back of his truck last week claims he’s no saint. He just put himself in the place of somebody desperate enough to commit such a bold, daylight act and decided they must have really needed the food.
That’s why he forgave them publically on Facebook.
“I want you to know that I forgive you for this as it seems that you needed these things more than I do,” he wrote Wednesday after the theft in Bridgetown at a grocery store parking lot. “The (loss of) turkey and groceries will not ruin our Christmas dinner for we will still have something for dinner that day and the gifts you stole were material things that we can do without, but I want you to understand that there is no way for me to replace these things because I used the last of the money we had to purchase these things.”
The gifts were for his 16-year-old daughter and his nine-year-old autistic daughter. One was for his wife Tammy who suffers from MS and is confined to a wheelchair.
Foley did ask for the stolen items to be returned, and posted his phone number and address.
“I assure you I will not involve the police in this and nothing will be said to you. If you can’t find it in your heart to return them then I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and may God Bless You and your Family. I do forgive you and wish no bad things on you.”
Foley said he’d bought his groceries, took them out to his truck and put them in the back. The window had been broken for some time and he had covered it by Duct-taping a sheet of plastic over it. He went back to the store to pick up something he’d forgotten. When he got back, there was Duct tape on the ground, the plastic was flapping, and the groceries and presents were gone.
When he left Bridgetown, Foley was so pre-occupied with the theft, he found himself out in Greywood, where he used to live, instead of his current home on the Clementsvale Road. Unconsciously he may have been thinking of Jean McIsaac, a Mi’kmaq elder he had turned to several years ago when he was trying to get in touch with his native ways. McIsaac died in June of 2011, but she had lived in Greywood.
“Jean taught me forgiveness and the way you were supposed to be towards others,” Foley said. “She instilled in me unconditional forgiveness.”
He admits it’s difficult, but he’s been on the receiving end of that kind of forgiveness. “It’s been done to me. It’s the greatest thing you can do. Just let it go.”
“And the family I grew up with was a good family. I saw the way my father looked out for people and the community.”
“Harbouring anger hurts yourself more than anybody else,” Foley said. It’s a lesson he may have taken a long time to learn. “As a teen I was rebellious, very rebellious. I hurt a lot of people in my younger years. I’m no saint by any means.”
He may not be a saint, but Foley has inspired hundreds, if not thousands with his Facebook posting and the subsequent media interviews. Thursday evening he received a phone call from Germany. Friday morning a woman from Connecticut, near Newtown, called him in tears and said he had renewed her faith in humankind.
And the local community has been dropping of money, gifts, gift cards, and groceries.
Chad Graves of ValuFoods in Bridgetown arrived at Foley’s house with four big boxes of groceries. Graves said the store, with locations in Bridgetown and Cornwallis, always gives to needy families at Christmas and this year the Foleys were obviously in need. During an hour-long interview with The Spectator, Foley or his wife answered the phone more than a dozen times, and three people showed up on his doorstep bearing food and gifts. A long-haul trucker showed up with a 22-pound turkey. Annapolis Variety has been collecting for the Foleys, a school helped out, the local Pharmasave, and CFP Halifax said it was transferring money to Foley’s bank account.
Foley has been overwhelmed and said he has more than he needs. Any surplus he has he hopes to give to others in need.
Friday on Facebook he responded to the outpouring of generosity:
“I want to say Thank You to everyone for their support and well wishes,” he wrote. “This is not what I was looking for in my post, I am very overwhelmed with all that has been done and offered. I hope that (through) all of this that I can some how pay it forward to others in the community and beyond. I have read and reread my post to see if I came across as (wanting) something more than the person who did this to know that I forgive them, and I do not see it. It is good to see all the goodness that exists in the world, it just reaffirms my belief that the world really isn't a bad place.
Love and Merry Christmas to all.”
“I’m very, very proud,” Tammy said of her husband, adding that their two daughters still living at home are learning from his example.