Healing in a Hug?
We know about “an apple a day” keeping the doctor away, but how about a “hug a day” keeping anger, bitterness, prejudices away?
Hugs are good. According to Psychotherapist Virginia Satir,
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival.
We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance.
We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
We need more hugs like the one between Sgt. Bret Barnum and 12-year-old Devonte Hart seen above. Devonte was one of several thousand people gathered in Portland Oregon to voice their opinions about the Ferguson, Mo incident. According to his adoptive parents, Sarah and Jennifer Hart, Devonte “ has a heart of gold but struggles with living fearlessly when it comes to the police and people that don’t understand the complexity of racism … in our society.”
With tears running down his cheeks, a “Free Hugs” sign hanging around his neck, Devonte stood in front of a police barricade. Officer Barnum noticed the boy and wondered what was wrong. He motioned the young protestor to come up to his motorcycle.
They shook hands.
They talked. About school. About summer activities. About favorite things to do.
Then there was this question from the Officer, “Why are you crying?
Devonte’s answer was an honest response about his fears regarding the level of police brutality towards young black kids.
The officer wasn’t defensive. He didn’t react. He didn’t give the boy a lecture.
He apologized. “Yes. I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The tears stopped.
The 21-year police veteran and father of two teenagers, looked at the “Free Hugs” sign and asked, “May I have one of your hugs?”
The picture is the answer to the question.
Are there other answers in the action?
I think so.
Devonte’s mom, Jennifer, said the moment was about “listening to each other, facing fears with an open heart.”
Yesterday, I completed a series on “The Bible You’ve Never Known” with a teaching on taking a different look at what the Bible says about homosexuality. One take away from the message was Jennifer’s message: Listen to each other. Hear peoples’ stories. Seek to understand. Sympathize and empathize.
“Walk a mile in my shoes. Walk a mile in my shoes.
And before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.”
It is said of Jesus that “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…”
“Compassion” to feel with
“Compassion” to be moved in your gut
What difference would it make in our lives, our communities, if we “walked in other’s shoes,” if we looked with compassion? Is the answer to the ills of Ferguson as simple as a hug? As listening? As being compassionate?
I don’t know. But I think I’ll try it.