Last week, the Year 11 Studies of Religion students had the opportunity to listen to Danny Addullah tell them the tragic story of how his three children were run over and killed by a drunk driver on 1 February 2020 in Oatlands as they were walking to buy an icecream. Incredibly Danny and his wife, Leila, have chosen to forgive the drunk driver and have decided to turn their family tragedy into a powerful message; the power and value of practising forgiveness. There is a video on youtube called “In The Blink of An Eye” which tells the harrowing story of the Abdullah children’s tragic deaths and then the amazingly inspiring and motivating response of Danny and Leila to this tragedy, which really is a parent’s worst nightmare.
In the year following the death of their three children, Danny and Leila approached the NSW State Government to set up i4give Day to be held on 1 February each year. i4give Day has now gained momentum and evolved into i4give week. The purpose of this week is to encourage people to be able to find the capacity to forgive others who transgress against ourselves, our children or other family members.
When Danny spoke to the Year 11 students he explained his and Leila’s decision to forgive, saying that if you harbour hatred and a grudge then it eats away at you and has the ability to destroy your life and the lives of those around you. He said he and Leila had the choice to live their lives being bitter, resentful and unhappy but they had three living children who they needed to love, care for and be strong role models for. They didn’t want their children growing up in a home filled with sadness and misery. Amazingly they are expecting their seventh child in six weeks time.
Danny and Leila’s story struck a chord with every single person who listened to Danny’s presentation and we all left inspired and motivated to practice forgiveness. There honestly wasn’t a dry eye in the Auditorium at the end of Danny’s presentation. I was incredibly proud of the questions our students asked as they were so interested in Danny’s story, in particular why he and Leila made the choice to forgive.
Rabbi Kastell also spoke to the Year 11 students and explained that Danny’s message has particular relevance to Judaism where forgiveness is a fundamental aspect of being a good Jew. He told the students that in the Bedtime Shema we ask Hashem to give us the power and motivation for us all to forgive anyone who has done anything against us that day.
Personally, Danny’s message and the Bedtime Shema struck a personal chord with me as I am well aware that forgiveness is not something which comes naturally to me as I tend to hold a grudge. After listening to Danny in 2022 I am committed to trying to be more forgiving to let things go and to not hold a grudge.
In our High School Assembly on Wednesday, I spoke to the students about Danny’s presentation to the Year 11 students and I encouraged them all to be more forgiving this year. If Danny and Leila can forgive a man who killed their children then surely we can forgive those who make mistakes or do something which upsets us.
As a school community we can be very critical of the school, each other and other students. We are often quick to judge and once an impression has been formed this can be very difficult to change. I often hear from parents who are unable to let go of something a teacher or another student has done or said in the past. I have found it is very difficult for many of our parents to forgive. There are very few guarantees in life but having worked with teenagers for over three decades now and being a father myself, I can guarantee that schools, teachers, students and other parents will all make mistakes at some time and do something which hurts or upsets us or our children, but I also know that everyone is deserving of forgiveness. As Danny Abdullah explained holding on to a grudge and being unable to forgive can be incredibly damaging to us and our relationships. So I encourage you all; next time someone makes a mistake, gets something wrong, offends or upsets you or your child please try to place this into perspective and make the choice to forgive. Rather than reacting straight away when you are feeling angry or upset take some time to reflect on the situation and see if you can forgive and move on as everyone makes a mistake at some time. Don’t react with anger but instead choose to forgive. Please remember Danny and Leila’s story and adopt their approach of forgiveness as this is the best way to support your child and ensure that you live a healthier, rewarding and more satisfying life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Hemphill is the Head of High School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.