A lesson for us all in how to apologize

As I write these words, much of the world is spinning from Helen Thomas' statement that the Israelis should leave Palestine. "Get the hell out" were her exact words. The 89-year-old White House correspondent apologized, but it wasn't enough to save her job. She resigned her column with Hearst, ending a career in which she subjected 10 U.S. presidents to her feisty interrogations.

I have to admit that I have some sympathy for Thomas even though I shudder at her expressed opinion. The suggestion that Israelis should somehow go home to Germany and Poland, of all places, is just incredibly sad and mean-spirited.

But the woman is almost 90. Has anyone here ever had a grandmother?

The things my grandma used to say when she became an octogenarian and beyond were often cringe-worthy, and no race, ethnicity, religion or politician was spared. Apologize? Ha. For what?

Of course, nobody let my grandma sit in the front row at White House news conferences either, which, when I think about it, would have been pretty amazing and definitely worth watching - as long as I didn't have to be the responsible party.

Anyway, Thomas apologized, and this summer apologies are everywhere.

Lying and philandering politicians are apologizing - sort of. If they claimed they went to Vietnam but didn't, they're apologizing for that, too.

The Duchess of York apologized, using the old alcohol excuse on "Oprah" for being videotaped allegedly offering access to her ex-husband for cash.

BP's boss is apologizing non-stop for the oil spill.

Pope Benedict XVI has apologized for a European round of clergy abuse allegations, revelations moving from country to country like tar balls washing up on previously pristine shores.

The head of BP and the pope are examples of people caught in the position of having to apologize for things they didn't personally do. It's the old "the buck stops here" problem.

At least the pope's apologies seemed sincere.

While apologies, sincere or half-hearted, are raining on us, baseball once again has provided us with an example of how one really steps up to the plate, so to speak, to apologize - and to accept an apology.

Although I generally disdain the inflated egos of major league sports, I have a soft spot for baseball. Baseball grew up in America, and Americans grew with it. Baseball helped frame our national character, and earlier this month, baseball provided us with yet another example of what that character should be.

When Detroit's Armando Galarraga appeared to throw a perfect game, meaning he let no one on base, it was a huge deal. It would have been only the 21st perfect game ever in the majors.

As everyone knows now, an umpire named Jim Joyce mistakenly called the last runner safe even though he was clearly out as proven later on video. Galarraga's perfect game was ruined.

A nationally uplifting moment followed, however, in a time and season that needed one badly. Joyce apologized profusely, his apology reportedly accompanied by tears. Then, Galarraga provided a touch of nobility. He expressed no anger. He smiled. He said nobody's perfect.

Everyone used the word "classy" to describe the two men, and in our national discourse right now, how often can we call anyone classy?

It's a lesson for all. For every mom who wants to say, "I'm sorry, but …," for every spouse who wants to nudge one little excuse in with his apology.

For all of us who want to dish a little guilt on the sincere apologizer, take a note from Joyce and Galarraga. Just say, "I'm sorry." Then, "Hey, nobody's perfect. It's OK."

Caldarola is a freelance writer from Anchorage, Alaska.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010