In the movie Invictus, Morgan Freemen, as Nelson Mandela, admonishes an angry young disciple bent on revenge for prior attacks on the South African leader: “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”
Not long ago the wisdom of this axiom came home to me in an unusual way.
The Hotel Granduca Houston looks like the backdrop for a Warner Brothers movie–four stories of Tuscan stucco. On a hot summer afternoon, a sports car accelerates through the ivy covered gateway, top down, ignoring the valet only signs, and skids into the first vacant space. Well healed guests look down from their wrought iron balconies.
Bolting from his car the blue blazered driver heads toward the oak entry doors. He is a rooster of a man. Nose pointed like a beak. Neck long and bowed. He struts across the parking lot, head bobbing, as if the world were his barnyard. If he’d had tail feathers they would have been fully deployed.
A clean cut doorman in a burgundy suit braces himself. His white gloved hands are clasped together at his belt, and his mocha colored face contrasts elegantly with his white shirt and tie.
“Excuse me, sir,” the concierge says with a slight island lilt. “Parking at this hotel is by valet only.”
The rooster puffs his chest and checks his watch.
“Look, I’m late. What are you going to do, tow my car?”
The doorman straightens to his full height and says softly, “If you will just listen …”
“I’ll give you ten seconds,” the rooster squawks, his beady eyes locking with the doorman’s.
The moment is tense. Then the doorman steps aside gracefully.
The rooster blusters into the lobby and on to the conference room.
When he looks at the agenda he sees that each participant is to pay for his own valet parking. His stomach tightens as he reflects on his behavior. He wants the doorman to be guilty of something, but he can’t think of what. He tries to make himself smaller.
At a break he slinks back to the lobby. He apologizes to the doorman, offering him the valet fee and a generous tip. The burgundy man refuses the money and instead offers to shake hands saying, “No apology is necessary.”
Clasping his hand, the rooster realizes how trivial his offering has been by comparison to that of the doorman.
As in Invictus, the hero this day is a humble man of color. In the face of arrogance, he has given a barnyard bully the most powerful gift of all–forgiveness.
How do I know these things?
I have it on good authority. You see, the rooster was me.
Malcolm D. Gibson
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