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Paco's Story

In his short story “Capital of the World”, Ernest Hemingway tells about a Spanish father who wanted to be reconciled with his runaway son. The despairing father missed his son so much that he placed an advertisement in the local newspaper. The advertisement read simply, “Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven! Love, Papa.” But Paco is a very common name in Spain—and when the father went to the hotel the next day, there were eight hundred young men named Paco waiting for their forgiving fathers!

Many of us are weighted down by the problems, mistakes, and hurts of yesterday, living with guilt over things we wish we’d never said or done. Others are full of resentment and bitterness because of injustices that have been done to them. Deep down inside, we seek a way to get rid of the weight of these unresolved past issues. We try to submerge them, but it’s like trying to keep a beach ball under water in the deep end of a swimming pool. We can do it for a while but over time we get weary, until it eventually takes all of our effort and energy just to keep it down. When we finally release the ball, we are amazed at how light it feels.

Learning the power of forgiveness has the potential to change our lives.


  • What strikes you about this story? How have you offered forgiveness to others? How has forgiveness been offered to you?
  • What does this story say about humanity’s desire for forgiveness?
  • How is forgiveness understood in this story? Is it an act of grace—or something else?
  • Do you think Paco’s father had forgotten about Paco’s misdeeds? Does it even matter? Should Paco receive retribution for his actions?
  • Relate this story to God. How does this story help you to understand God’s offer of forgiveness to humanity? How does it come up short?

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