Other outlets have already named their “person of the year,” but months ago, I decided Christian Cooper would be my choice. As soon as I decided to write about him, I was quickly put to the test to see if I had paid attention to his lesson.
Already forgotten by most, it was Cooper who asked a woman in Central Park to follow the law and put her dog on a leash. Calling the Police, Amy Cooper (no relation to Christian) repeatedly screeched a flat-out lie into her phone, “An African American man is threatening my life!” Meanwhile, Christian innocently stood several feet away, watching Amy spin out of control.
On a bird watching excursion and not threatening Amy at all, Cooper refused to file charges against her for making a false report and showed great generosity of spirit by forgiving her.
He didn’t try to teach her a lesson or publicly shame her. Instead, Cooper said Amy had already been through enough humiliation and embarrassment in the public eye and deserved a break. “She shouldn’t have to live with her mistake the rest of her life.” he told reporters.
This kind of unimaginable forgiveness is rare, especially in the enraged world of 2020 where people seem to be flying off the handle about everything. Lashing out at others appears to be the new national pastime.
Weary of rude people in the world, I didn’t think I could be as forgiving as Cooper. Lately, angry people make me angry.
As God often works — not so mysteriously sometimes, The Almighty chuckled, shook his head, and sent me my own test of forgiveness.
At my doctor’s office, a nurse loudly announced my medical information in front of a full waiting room of strangers and wouldn’t stop. I requested we move to a private area and asked her to lower her voice, but this request made her angry and she grew louder. Waiving her arms, babbling about her upcoming lunch break, shouting about her co-workers, and again, announcing my personal medical issues, she wouldn’t hush. Unable to get a word in during her rant, I finally turned and left. I felt my HIPAA rights had been violated. I was embarrassed and steaming mad.
I went home and faced my unfinished story about how much I liked Christian Cooper.
Realizing Amy’s punishment was going to be delivered by public opinion, Cooper offered kindness, then backed off. This part of his story made me realize having my stomach in knots was useless. It was my doctor’s job to take care of this nurse, not mine. My doctor has known me to be a cheerful and kind patient for over 15 years, and I needed to let him handle the situation. I decided to drop the issue (insert the word “eventually”) and stop stewing about it.
It takes deep-gut strength to show grace to the unlovable, and Christian Cooper proved himself to be one of the strongest Americans of 2020. He acknowledged justice but loved mercy. Perhaps his unfortunate situation came at the perfect time when we all needed a reminder of gentleness — “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Not just in our homes at Christmas, but in Central Park, and the doctor’s office in Alabama, and in every corner of America.
This story first appeared in Advance Media Publications