Person of the Year — an example of forgiveness

December 26, 2020


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

  • I do remember this story, and appreciate you reminding us of the grace of forgiveness…someone told me once that only when you forgive you are truly free of the grudge or pain that is bothering you, and forgiveness is freedom…easier said than done I know 🙂

    • Yes, easier said than done is the true and difficult part. Happy New Year and thanks for the wise words.

  • An excellent choice…I remember too well when Mr. Cooper’s story made the news and watched with disbelief. He demonstrated such grace. My 2021 word is Patience. I have always been an extremely patient person (“mom” to over 1000 college freshmen and wife for 47 years). But 2020 sorely tested me with ugly rants and name calling from people even in my own church. I’ve prayed for God to give me more patience, and you are so correct we don’t know what is happening in people’s lives.

    • Yes, even the nicest of people seem to be having melt downs. I think we’re all stressed more than we know it. Patience is a good word, and I’m sorry yours has suffered this past year, but it’s no surprise. Even the most patient person has been tested. I wasn’t patient to start with, so I’m just about to snap in half! I still trace it back to the reality TV shows where they made it “cool” to point your finger in someone’s face and tell them off. From there, it trickled down to seemingly civilized people popping off at the poor cashier or teacher. Maybe I’ll focus on your word as well. Happy New Year!

      • I blame it on those shows too. People think it’s “normal” to be nasty now. I’m sorry you were on the receiving end at your doctor’s office.

  • That was a perfect choice. One that I hope others notice too. It isn’t easy to do what he did, but he showed more Christianity in that moment than most of us do in a lifetime. Great post, LA.

  • “Angry people make me angry” Good one! How true. I hate doctors offices that blab everything. You did good to walk away. I also loved this story about he man in the park. He was beyond anything I could ever wish to be but and a good example for us all.

  • Good choice. Not an easy one, but the right one.

    • Everyone has a place in this world and perhaps his place was to teach us all a lesson — to go along with a friend’s wise advice!

  • A beautiful example of mercy and forgiveness, we could all use a dose of that in this current world we are living. I understand your stewing over the situation in the doctor’s office. You just have to wonder what had gone on in her life that day or for the days leading up to her outrage. Thank you for sharing and wishing you a blessed New Year!

    • Thanks Pam. Yes, after I thought about chunking this nurse on her rear (just kidding — I have staff for that!) I did wonder if something had happened to her earlier in the day to set her on edge. I always told my boys that if a cashier was snippy with them, perhaps it was because their mother was in the hospital. You just never know what someone is going through. Happy New Year to you!

      • A tough lesson, indeed. I commend you for sharing it.

        We all need a reminder of how to deal “on the spot” with stressful situations. I know i do.

        Lord, help me remember to have the slow reaction response that Christian Cooper demonstrated. Amen.

        A Christian response, for sure!

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