If anyone had a right to hold a grudge, it was New York Police Department Officer Steven McDonald.
McDonald was shot three times on a routine call to Central Park in 1986. He had just two years on the job when he became paralyzed from the neck down.
Officer McDonald was as human as the rest of us. Still, he found a way to channel his feelings toward Shavod Jones, who ultimately served 8 ½ years for attempted murder. He wrote, “I’m sometimes angry at the teen-age boy who shot me, but more often I feel sorry for him. I only hope that he can turn his life into helping and not hurting people. I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life.”
Steven McDonald’s life changed the day he was shot, but he was adamant about making a difference. He became a regular spokesman for the NYPD, meeting with students throughout New York City, campaigned for gun control, and even had an audience with Pope John Paul II. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said, “No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world. Like so many cops, Steven joined the NYPD to make a difference in people’s lives. And he accomplished that every day.”
In the December series, Satisfied, we’re talking about how to surrender. You might listen to the story of Steven McDonald and think, “He had to surrender to his circumstances; his injuries wouldn’t permit anything else.” But thinking that would take you past the true story. McDonald’s years of service showed how he fought back at every turn against the common expectations of what someone who is paralyzed could do.
Yes, Steven McDonald surrendered, yet he never gave up. He surrendered being resentful. He let go of any notion that he was above the man who shot him. And he didn’t burden himself or his family with days filled with bitterness. Before he passed away from a heart attack this year, he spent three decades contributing to his community.
As the year ends, there’s probably someone you need to forgive. But if you find forgiveness next to impossible, follow Steven McDonald’s lead and decide that you will take the first step and let go. Let go of reliving the hurt that does nothing but give you pain. Leave every disagreement, no matter how large or small, behind as the clock strikes midnight on December 31. And then send a blessing to anyone who might be doing the same for you, so that you can be completely at ease as 2018 begins, living in a world free from harsh judgments, fear and unhappiness.
In the place of anxious, restless energy, welcome the peace that passes all understanding. The feeling where you can honestly say from the tip of your toes to the top of your head, “It is well with my soul.” When you can do that, you are truly satisfied.