Boogers & Forgiveness

What do you want to be remembered for? I’d like to think that the last ten years of my life will be remembered by my friends in Mongolia as positive ones—except for maybe one thing.

I flicked a booger at the nation.

I had been in my role of Managing Director of Eagle TV in Mongolia for only a few months. It was 2003 and we were covering the Iraq war live. We were the only TV station in the country to do so. Mongolian TV viewers had never seen anything like it. Our station, Eagle TV, was pulling as much as 90% of the TV audience.

During the coverage, every hour we had a segment where people could call us and give their live opinions about the war, on the air, completely uncensored. We ran a live polling graphic on the screen. Nothing like this had ever been done in Mongolia before. Thousands of calls came in. A new threshold of freedom through media had taken hold and the people eagerly took advantage of it.

Within a couple of days of our coverage Mongolia’s Foreign Minister went on State TV to announce that once the government of Mongolia had decided its position on the war that the people of Mongolia should not be allowed to voice their opinion publicly. Some of the old communist ways still held sway back then, especially in the media. The next day an article appeared in the leading communist-friendly paper saying essentially the same thing.

I would have none of it.

I decided that our audience had to hear from the leadership of our station about why we were doing what we were doing. We needed to make a stand for free speech for all Mongolians. I wrote a two minute commentary, memorized my lines, and recorded a commentary to air during our prime time news. My goal was to assure the people that our station would always be a conduit of free speech and expression for the Mongolian people.

As I did my walk-on, beginning my short speech, I flubbed my lines three or four times and had to go back to my starting position and begin again. Feeling a bit flustered after a short string of mistakes, I stuck my finger up my nose and then flicked it straight out at the camera. The staff got a little laugh, the tension was relieved, then I went back to my starting position and began again. The next cut was perfect.

As the evening newscast began a few staff gathered in my office to watch my commentary. The anchor announced me then I appeared on screen giving my commentary. Suddenly I stopped, shoved my finger up my nose and hurled a mock booger at the people of Mongolia.


I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The staff were in shocked. The operator cued up the wrong tape! I flicked a booger at Mongolia! Omigosh! I flicked a booger at Mongolia! Thankfully, the audience said nothing—no one called—and it was quickly forgotten. Or so I thought.

Nine years later at a Christmas party one of our former staff told the story of my famous nose play and everyone got a huge laugh. It was one of my first blunders. It wouldn’t be my last, but it was the most memorable. Everyone remembers the day that Tom Terry flicked a booger at Mongolia.

That is not how I wanted to be remembered. But at the same time, I must admit, in hindsight, it was funny.

What do you want to be remembered for? How will your children and your grandchildren remember you? What about the friends and associates you’ve made over the years? When your name comes to mind how will they remember you? I thought about that from time to time during my ten year Mongolian experience. I’d like to think the people I worked with and affected remember me as someone who had a positive impact in their lives. Of course, I’m a known goofball, and I’m okay with that, so I’d like to think that my Mongolian friends will remember the humor, and laughter, and wonderful things we did together. But in the back of my mind I always wondered if I had an impact on my workmates that went beyond that. What kind of testimony did I really leave them? What would they remember? Then, when I needed it the most, I discovered the answer to my question.

Nine years after the famous booger incident the laws in Mongolia changed and our organization was forced to sell our TV station to Mongolian owners. The announcements were made and there was a time of transition. Then on the day that I bid our staff farewell something happened that touched my heart deeply.

One of our news staff came to my office and shut the door. We had a bit of a rocky relationship over the years. Let’s just say that in many ways we didn’t see eye-to-eye. He came in, shut the door behind him and said to me four words I will never forget.
“You always forgave me.”

I had my answer. The Lord had given me a testimony of forgiveness. Christ’s central work of forgiveness was seen in me—regardless of my mistakes and goofiness.

What will people remember about you? I’m sure memories of me in Mongolia are a mixed bag with many people I knew. None of us is perfect. But I know that through my experience I was able to demonstrate some of Christ’s character to those around me. I don’t say that to justify myself. Rather, I say it to remind myself that if we don’t reflect Christ’s character, especially that of forgiveness, then we will miss our opportunities to see Christ formed in us, and living through us, day-by-day.

When I look back, the booger story brings me a chuckle. But forgiveness, and love, and graciousness, those are the qualities I want to be remembered for the most, and in doing so, show Christ more than myself.

How about you?

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