After the events this week in the Middle East, I have been feeling a deep sense of sorrow. I had many discussions both with people who were celebrating and with people, like me, who just felt sad at the state of the world. I keep thinking we all need to do better than this.
Today I realized that I was on the verge of tears for no apparent reason. It had been coming and going for quite some time, but today on the drive home I found them welling up in me. I had the radio on in the car and a Depeche Mode song came on. “People are people so why can it be, that you and I should get along so awfully” and “I can’t understand, how can a man, hate another man. Help me understand.” The dam broke. I was crying and driving and thinking that I just don’t understand people. I felt like an alien in this world, looking on in horror at what we do to each other.
I was on my way to walk around a lake and I drove there with a certain sense of desperation. I needed something to help me either understand or find peace with the world.
It was very windy and it was even more so next to the lake, which further agitated me. I was looking at the people passing me on my walk — hoping, I think, to see something to pull me out of the state I was in. It occurred to me that I really needed a hug. And as I passed the people around the lake I thought, “I bet they could use one, too.”
Then it came to me to picture myself giving each of them a hug. One by one, as they passed me, I imagined what it would be like to hug them. I looked at each person and tried to feel myself hugging them and what kind of hugger they might be or what kind of reaction they might have. I imagined some would be rather jolly about it and perhaps chuckle good naturedly. Some would maybe only give a shoulders-touching-tapping-on-the-back kind of hug, while others would give full body hugs. Some would be happy, some would be embarrassed and some would be standoffish.
I passed one young man standing on the shore, looking at the lake and I nearly burst into tears again, because he seemed so sad. Some people looked like they rarely got hugged and others looked like they were surrounded with people to hug. When I passed two people who were together, I imagined a group hug. In my mind I hugged the elderly, the children, the men, women, dogs, the runners, walkers and bikers. I even pictured giving the ducks a happy scratch under the feathers.
After a while I noticed that I felt better, lighter. Some of my sadness had dissipated. Then I not only pictured me hugging everyone, but I sent a burst of loving energy to them as I passed. That is when some people actually noticed me noticing them. A few brave souls met eyes with me and kind of smiled. Not full smiles, those tight-lipped-half-smiles we reserve for strangers or when we are putting on a brave face. But they smiled. The energy in me started to return and the sadness lifted.
I began to feel unity and kinship with my fellow humans again. I remembered that we are all, every one of us, capable of love, even the people with vastly different world views than my own. We all have the same basic needs — food, shelter and affection. And we all sometimes just need a hug.