I was there. In Dallas. The night that we lost 5 officers. I wasn’t in the midst of the chaos but I did see it on my drive home. I witnessed the helicopters shining their big spotlights. I witnessed the Police cars. I witnessed what looked like something big. It wasn’t until I turned on social media that I realized what the RED, WHITE & BLUES were flashing for. I knew there had to be an emergency but I had no idea the depths of this dark and sorrowful tragedy.
As we were driving home we were all in denial about the reports coming through. I was glued to the phone as I tried to put the puzzle pieces together and I sat in disbelief as I realized that there are some things that may never fit just right in our minds. At one point in our drive all I could think about was how to love others during this time of grief. I had decided that I wanted to reach out and give a hug to someone. I know this may seem weird but during my time in graduate school at HSU one thing that I was intrigued by was the positive impact a hug can have on a person. I was even able to test this concept by attending an event at Beltway in Abilene, TX and received a hug by a woman named Shampa Rice. This woman is from India and she came to share her story and then she reached out her arms and hugged people. The line of people who wanted to receive a hug was AMAZING, POWERFUL, and BEAUTIFUL and I wish deeply that everyone could have been there to experience this!!! I stood in line for an hour to be influenced by her gift and I am thankful even now that she graciously allowed herself to be used as a positive example of LOVE.
As we stopped at a gas station to get a drink of water I knew I was going to hug a few strangers. I can still feel the trembling that I felt from my hands to my feet as I opened the door to the gas station. I had a few doubts because of fear but thought about how perfect love cast out fear and a hug is an act of love. I stood by the water and looked around as I asked God to send someone to hug. I looked down at my hands and feet and trembled more as I was just as uncomfortable as anyone else would be. I walked slowly to the register as my husband had our items to check out. I looked around and there they were, two men, walked up behind us, one after the other. One man was an average height Hispanic man with dark hair and warm eyes. He was holding his drinks and standing behind us. The man behind him was a tall black man in a dark blue shirt. He was bald and also had warm dark eyes. Both men were quiet and were minding their own business. I took a few moments to build my courage and I turned around and said “with everything going on in our world I have something to say, you do not have to know someone to love them. I love you and would like to give you a hug.” I did not give them time to respond I just reached out my arms and one at a time they hugged me. The Hispanic man gave me a soft and gentle hug and the Black man gave me a big bear hug. The Hispanic man kindly said “thank you ma’am and bless you ma’am and I pray blessings for your life. I hope you have a good night and safe time getting home.” The black man said “thank you” and he also said “I can tell you are emotional right now.” He was so right. I was definitely feeling many deep emotions. They both smiled and looked me in the eyes with kindness. They both were kind. Neither one of them were upset at my asking to hug them. I so deeply hope they will remember their weird and random hug that night. I have no idea if they had already heard the news of what had happened in Dallas and I didn’t even bring it up. I do hope when they got that news that they will remember there is good in this country and world.
As I have thought back on that day and as I have really tried to make sense of the terrible actions that do not make sense, I have found solace in a few simple things. First, there is power in a HUG or two…or four…make that twelve…there is great power in receiving and giving at least twelve hugs a day! If you do not believe me and need scientific proof just do a little research on the topic of hugs and the profound difference they make in our health both mentally and physically. It is said that on average a human needs at least 4-12 hugs a day to truly survive…so please do not wait any longer…HUG someone! Another thing that I find comfort in is knowing that there is good in the world. I have read story after story of great things coming from the dark days. Our Abilene Chief of Police stood in uniform and shared a few very profound words with our community. Our friend TIM PALMER uses his voice to influence people to LOVE one another! His music is so powerful! A Dallas Police officer named Bryan Woodard is making a positive impact in the world as well! My sweet friend Chelsea Umberger paints beautiful skylines and encouraging words in script with beautiful watercolors and uses them to inspire others! I have another artist friend name CAL who uses her gifts to paint beautiful, pure and uniting murals on the walls of our buildings and this brings our community together! I have a friend name Stephanie Mott who is a teacher in an urban area that has challenged people to see her side of the story in a peaceful and beautiful way…she challenges us to build REAL relationships. I also have a friend name Chad Mitchell who started an amazing movement that is ALL about mobilizing love (Stop The Violence)! One of our own amazing officers Tim Pipes uses his influence to teach self defense so that others can feel secure in tough situations! I would love to hear about more positive things so feel free to share! There is still hope for unity and it shines in the midst of tragedy! USE YOUR GIFTS FOR GOOD!
Friends…I have one final thought. Hate breeds hate. Fear breeds fear. If you are spending so much of the short time you have on earth pointing out the misdeeds of others, you are failing to see the lack of justice in your actions. I am not saying that the wrongs that have been done are right…I am simply saying that hatred isn’t the answer. I am going to quote something that a great man once said. This man is one who understands the destruction that the hatred of others can bring and he can also understand the power of love and loving others. Even if you don’t believe in him, there is no need to disregard his statement because it is a valid point. This statement speaks exactly to what we are dealing with here in our own country. This man was in the process of protecting a woman who had made some bad choices. He knew she had done some wrong things in her life and did not overlook them. He simply wanted to show the power of GRACE and HUMILITY. As people were trying to murder her and persecute her he said:
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
I ask you to examine your heart and life. Are you not much like this woman? Have you not been guilty of any sin? Is your record spotless? I am not asking you to live with the shame of your misdeeds, I am simply asking for grace to be given by you and for those whom you feel great hatred towards to receive the same grace given to you.
Some are casting stones at our own country for the sins of her past. She is asking for grace. Her people are pleading for peace. Her people are dying for unity. She is our home. She sees her mistakes. She can one day be restored to the place of freedom but will never be perfect. It is in her imperfections that she tries to shine HOPE for a better tomorrow. She can shine RED, WHITE, AND BLUE with humility from her past and she can shine RED, WHITE, AND BLUE with hope for her future.
Do something extravagant today…HUG SOMEONE you love…and HUG someone you do not know. It’s a free gift that could help someone survive this madness. Share a meal with someone new. Sit at a table and brainstorm ways to make your community a better place. Find someone different than you and start a conversation…ask them how they are, what do they enjoy doing in the community, do they live near family or miles away or even seas away from them? We tell our kiddos be responsible with yourself, respectful to others and most importantly…be fun because life is too short to be grumpy all the dang time! Sometimes it only takes overcoming the fear of the unknown to be richly blessed by others!
To the men in the gas station…I don’t know you but I love you. Thank you for hugging me too. I needed it. To Shampa Rice, thank you for hugging me and thousands of others throughout the years. To our Chief of Police…thank you for standing in unity and speaking with forgiveness, love and peace. To Tim Palmer, Thank you so much for using your voice to influence love in our community and world! To Tim Pipes, thank you for teaching others to defend themselves rather than having to live in fear. To our officers sworn to serve and protect thank you for your bravery and sacrifice. Bryan Woodard…thank you for sharing your life and work with us openly so that we may be able to understand your life on a deeper level. To Stephanie Mott…THANK YOU FOR SPEAKING LOVE and for challenging us to be uncomfortable. Chelsea and CAL thank you for using your gifts to encourage and inspire others. To our News Stations…thank you for sharing good stories…please keep sharing positive things about our community, state and world! To Chad Mitchell, thank you for being an amazing foot forward in a difficult walk.
To EVERYONE reading this, let’s leave chaos in our rearview mirrors. Remember that Love breeds Love and I LOVE YOU ALL! Love Steph