To say there is a lot going on in the world is an understatement. I have spent more time reading the New York Times in the last two weeks than I am used to. Every morning I feel like Captain Picard asking – “Damage report?” More than anything I feel a sense of hopelessness. It is like watching a terrible car accident happening and not being able to do anything to stop it. These are uncertain times.
Community has become more important in this country’s current state of unrest than it has been in a long time. There is a thirst for action, solidarity, and expression for tolerance and inclusivity among a vast majority. As Dylan Thomas still reminds us, “do not go gentle into that good night.”
The prime minster of Canada, Justin Trudeau, gave an eloquent address in the wake of the recent shooting in a Quebec Mosque. I was in tears as he ended with, “Canadians will not be intimidated, we will not meet violence with more violence. We will meet fear and hatred with love and compassion. Always.” So as we enter February, a month for the hopeless romantics, I hope as a country we move forward with love as well.
On a Friday I decided to spend an hour outside the Prospect Park Q subway station in Brooklyn doing just that, answering the fear and hatred we have been inundated by, with love. With a shabbily scribbled sign that read, Hugs For All, I offered hugs for an hour to strangers entering and exiting the subway station. A little apprehensive, there was no telling how this would be received. And then I remembered – Brooklyn is all about the love. And with it being the most densely populated borough in New York City, it equates to a lotta love.
Brooklyn is home and happens to be a cosmopolitan of diversity in regards to race, nationality, and religion. We simply… cohabitate. And like any family, there are disagreements – but at the end of the day it is still home. In its diversity it is unequivocally human. It doesn’t get any more natural than this.
While there were those that were a hesitant about my intentions, there were many that welcomed me with open arms. And what a feeling… I encountered tenderness and a true sense of community in such a short amount of time. Men, women, young, old, from a plethora of backgrounds – dogs too and one tiny little boy named Steven who turned around before leaving so he could ask me my name.
There was no agenda, no ultimatums, and no divisiveness. Many had expressions of candid surprise that ended with a sincere moment that took the ordinary out of the day for both of us. Each moment was intimate and it was real. A gentleman asked me how much it would cost him. “Free!” I stated and he replied, “Well in that case, “ and we hugged it out. Another asked me why I was doing it. “Just to spread some love.” And he too, let me. What would happen if we answered every trespass with an act of random kindness? And as Trudeau reminded the world, “We must come together in order to move forward, we will not close our minds, we will open our hearts.”