Two key points: Attention to detail and attentive listening
On April 28, 1999, just eight days after the Columbine massacre, 17-year old Jason Lang was brutally killed in a so-called copycat shooting. This random act of violence took place at Jason’s high school in the small town of Taber, Alberta. He had never met the former student who pulled the trigger.
At 7:00 in the morning, this past June 4, 600 people gathered at Toronto’s Fairmount Royal York Hotel to hear Jason’s father, Reverend Dale Lang, convey a message of faith and forgiveness.
The occasion was the 40th Annual Ontario Prayer Breakfast. Guest speaker Reverend Lang was there to tell his family’s extraordinary story of compassion. In the ten years since the shooting, he has continued to publicly forgive the young man responsible for his son’s death.
I had heard Reverend Lang speak in 2000 – he had just begun the quest to share his family’s courageous message of faith. He is an inspirational speaker, and I was honoured when the June Prayer Breakfast organizers asked me to extend the formal thank you address. In preparation for my speech, I did extensive research and learned that this deeply compassionate man was a former hot air balloon champion. He had even co-piloted the first balloon to ever cross the North Pole, in 1980. But as I wrote my notes, I focused on forgiveness and acceptance.
The morning of the Prayer Meeting, Reverend Lang spoke with heartfelt emotion. His was a message of forgiveness and ultimately, freedom. “Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Forgiving lightens the step – by providing a sense of freedom.“
As listened, I understood that I needed to change course. My prepared remarks were about acceptance, but freedom through forgiveness was the cornerstone of his message. I would need to adjust my speech.
During his stirring presentation, Reverend Lang also remembered Jason and his 1992 Camaro. Fast and fun, his son had taken great pride in the car. No surprises there I thought to myself, remembering Reverend Lang – champion hot air balloonist.
And then, it was my turn. I knew I would speak about freedom and forgiveness –but I opened by saying Jason and I shared something in common. I, too, had my first car when I was 17 – a 1968 Camaro! Reverend Lang laughed; the crowd laughed. Here was a small sense of relief following the touching, moving speech.
Etiquette is showing respect for others. When you’re called upon to thank a speaker, be prepared to do some prep work. Pay attention to detail. Background, bio, previous speeches – all are good, sound choices for your speech material. Whatever the topic – never, ever underestimate the importance of attentive listening.
Here are a few practical tips on how to forgive:
Forgiveness and the Freedom of Letting Go
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