I saw something the other day that both broke my heart and filled me with joy at the same time. Driving home through littered streets, hearing the incessant sirens wailing from somewhere nearby, I turned onto the side street leading to my block and saw, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, two young men connected in a tight embrace, one sobbing into the neck of the other.
Anyone who wasn’t personally acquainted with these two young men would assume the stereotype that they were gang members and quite possibly drug dealers. Both were donned in ‘the uniform’: Baggy jeans, slouched low below the butt, over-sized plain white t-shirt and gym shoes. I do not personally know the two men so will refrain from any assumptions. I can tell you what I do know. I know that each of us experience pain and loss and disappointment. I also know that each of us have the capacity to provide comfort and support for another.
My heart broke seeing these two young men and my thoughts immediately went to the negative. Did someone they were close to get shot & killed? Chicago has the most murders of any city in the U.S. so far this year. Were these two young men among the many caught up in this seemingly senseless violence that has erupted upon our city? Could it have been that one of the two just received a frightening medical diagnosis? Or maybe the two are related and they recently lost a grandmother or elderly aunt or uncle. Even those living in areas with high crime rates succumb to natural causes the same as everyone else. It was impossible for me to know the truth behind the embrace, but I wanted to know. What was their story? What happened? How do they know each other? What gave them the capacity for such a bold public demonstration of emotion?
And then my heart filled with joy because in the midst of all of the horrible shit we see every day, in my city and neighborhood and in places all around the world, places crumbling under evil men who terrorize the innocent, places thrown together in haste because people are forced from their homes trying to escape the terror caused by evil men, places that should be safe but aren’t because we just can’t seem to get it together as a human race and treat each other with love, in midst of all of this horrible shit, these two young men were displaying love and kindness and comfort and support. And dare I say, many would throw these two into a catagory of the worst kind of people who “have no respect” or “don’t care about anything” simply because of their skin color and the clothes they choose to wear. But they were publically defying those negative stereotypes with a simple act of love. Small acts such as this, even though they will never be reported on the news and no one of import will ever mention them in a speech heard by thousands, are what create positive change and can be the difference between life and death for a person.
Each of us have the capacity and, I suspect, the opportunity to demonstrate love, kindness, comfort and support each day we are granted life on this planet. Can we try that? Can we try to put aside our discomfort and selfishness, our insecurities and prejudices? Just one act, for one other person, every day?