Forgiveness is a choice

by Lesley on June 11, 2012 · 4 comments

in lessons learned

I am quite thrilled, proud and touched to feature the following guest post written by my mom, Ann Sebek. I hope you enjoy the read as much as I did. 

On June 8, 1972 ….

I was 19 years old, just eight weeks shy of my twentieth birthday. A college sophomore, I had the loving support of my family, growing up quite sheltered in a private community in Rolling Hills, California.  No worries. Safe. Loved.

I remember the news every evening with the count of soldiers who had died that day – in a far away nation… in Vietnam.  Many young girls, myself included, wore a POW bracelet to commemorate a soldier either missing in action or captured.  We prayed for the safe return of our soldiers, and faithfully wore the bracelets for years, even though many of us chose to wear the copper style that turned our wrists green.  It was a simple way to show our support for the troops overseas; there was little else that we could do.

And then the following image appeared in our newspapers, which brought the war into our living rooms and into our hearts.  It stunned the world.  We stopped.  We cried.  The picture of the 9-year-old naked girl, running down the street from a Napalm strike in her village, was viewed throughout the world and made people think more deeply about the war. Everyone knew about “the girl” in the picture, although we didn’t know her name.  So. Very. Heartbreaking.

Photograph taken 40 years ago on June 8, 1972

Nick Ut, the 21-year-old photographer who later won a Pulitzer Prize for the photograph, rescued the girl in the photo, Kim Phuc. After witnessing the family run down the street trying to escape the strike, Nick put his camera down, poured water from his canteen over Kim’s body, and transported her to emergency care.  She spent three days in the hospital morgue before someone realized she was still alive, and another 14 months recovering from multiple surgeries.

Jeff and I were able to hear Kim deliver a message in church last week.  The message was on forgiveness, and her story very profound. Kim became a Christian after reading the Bible in a library.  She learned to stop asking, “Why me?” and learned to trust and obey the Lord.  She asked Him to teach her to forgive her enemies and she put the names of people on her prayer list that had caused her suffering.  The message she delivered to the congregation was,  “You have all suffered bombs that have exploded in your hearts,” and she said that by His grace, He will heal you.  She asked us to consider a new way of looking at the Napalm girl photo.  “When you see that little girl running with her arms stretched out…. Don’t see her as crying out in pain, but see her as crying out for peace.”

After I dried my tears, I was able to give Kim a big hug and thank her for the powerful words she delivered.  What a special treat to be able to meet her.

Ann, Kim Phuc, Nick Ut - 40 years after the Napalm Girl photo was taken

To listen to Kim’s moving story click here

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I'm proud of your mom too, Lesley.


This is so beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you so much for sharing!


How amazing to have met Kim -- what a powerful story about forgiveness. I love the quote about crying out for peace, and finding strength in photos that look so vulnerable.


How very very powerful. Thank you so much for writing this!