On October 20, 2013, tragedy rocked Forest Grove, a small town on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Two young step-sisters, Anna Dieter and Abigail Robinson, were killed in a hit-and-run accident. The town was shocked to hear of the girls’ deaths.
It was also shocked to learn the parents’ response.
11-year-old Abigail was playing with her 6-year-old sister, Anna, in a pile of leaves heaped up by the curb when an SUV driven by 18-year-old Cinthya Cisneros accidentally left the street, struck the girls, and killed both of them. According to police reports, the vehicle never stopped, even though the young, female driver admitted feeling a “significant bump” when she rode over the leaves. The 18-year-old driver, her brother, and her boyfriend soon learned about the deaths of the girls, but instead of reporting themselves, they took the SUV to a car wash to remove any traces of evidence.
Their efforts were all in vain, however; a tip from a neighbor led to their quick arrests.
On the other side of the hit-and-run, the parents of Anna and Abigail were left to pick up the pieces of their daughters’ deaths. “I can’t change what happened to my girls. I’ve said many times I just want to wake up, reverse the clocks, but I can’t change it,” said their mother, Susan Robinson. For the heartbroken married couple, there was really only one thing to do: forgive.
Even though there will be consequences for the teenagers’ actions, Susan and her husband, Tom, publically forgave the adolescents who killed their children.
Forgiveness is a powerful tool that God has given us to cope with the woes and pains that plague our lives. Even secular thinkers have noted the power of forgiveness. The American Psychological Association recently claimed that, “Those ambivalent about forgiveness reported more psychological distress than those who either had forgiven.” Jeni Burnette, a professor at The University of Richmond, and a student of forgiveness, has written, “In the aftermath of transgressions, forgiveness can protect physical health by reducing stress and rumination. For example, forgiveness is associated with lower blood pressure as well as lower heart rate. Additionally, forgiveness of severe offenses has been linked to reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms.”
Life isn’t short on heartache and grief; from time to time, we will be hurt by others. That’s one of the liabilities of being human. The good news is, we are free to respond with forgiveness.
That’s always the best option.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)