Prison Warden Kenyon J. Scudder has told this story:
He happened to be sitting in a railroad coach next to a young man who was obviously depressed. Finally the man revealed that he was a convict returning from a distant prison. His imprisonment had brought shame on his family, and they had neither visited him nor written often. He hoped, however, that this was only because they were too poor to travel and too uneducated to write. He hoped, despite the evidence, that they had forgiven him.
To make it easy for them, however, he had written them to put up a signal for him when the train passed their little farm on the outskirts of town. If his family had forgiven him and felt that he could rebuild his life in his own home and own town, they were to put a white ribbon in the upper branch of the apple tree located in the lower pasture near the railroad tracks. If, however, they felt it would be best for him to rebuild his life in a new environment, in a new city, they were to do nothing, and he would remain on the train.
As the train neared his home town, the suspense became so great he couldn’t bear to look out of his window. His companion changed places with him and said he would watch for the apple tree. In a minute, he put his hand on the young convict’s arm. “I can see the tree,” he said.
The young man then asked, “Does it contain a white ribbon?”
The reply, “Not one white ribbon, but a white ribbon on every branch!”
In that instant, all the bitterness that had poisoned a life was dispelled. Warden Scudder said to the young man, “I feel as if I have witnessed a miracle.”
The young man responded, “Perhaps you have.”
What was the wise and inspired counsel from Alexander Pope? “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
-Thomas S. Monson