Have you ever had an experience that literally just changes who you are. Like a moment in time that is a marker in your life and you remember your life "before" said event and "after."
It was three days after Thanksgiving when I had an experience that I would never forget. I was nine years old and we were at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah taking part in the Christmas celebration when they turn on the lights, thousands of twinkling lights, for the holiday season. We were enjoying this time with family, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa, when one of the families decided they needed to call it a night, as they would be driving back to California the next day.
As we all stood around saying our goodbyes I had a thought come so clear to my mind saying, "Go and hug Sara." I thought to myself, , "No, I don't want to do that, I don't want to make a scene." So I didn't. The thought came again, even clearer, "Go and hug Sara." I did nothing. And again the thought came, though this time it was so loud is sounded like an actual voice and I looked around to see who was talking to me. No one was paying any attention to me, and again, I did nothing.
The next day when we returned home from church we received news that while that family was driving on their way back to California, they had gotten into a car accident and Sarah had been ejected from the car and had passed away.
The following week was a blur, but a couple of days after the funeral as I sat on my bed, I recalled the impressions I had had on that night and just sobbed with regret for why I hadn't acted on them.
Why didn't I want to hug Sara? She was my cousin. She was seven years old. She was a beautiful angel. Why didn't I want to hug her? I imagine part of the reason was that I didn't want to bring attention to myself (I was a very shy little girl), but as I've spent the last couple of weeks contemplating the ways I show up in all aspects of my life, I realized the many moments that I have turned down opportunities to express and show love out of fear.
And my heart ached for those times. I spent hours crying into my sheets mourning all of the times that I have failed to show love to the people in my life that I actually feel so much love for.
I consider myself an extremely loving person. My heart just swells with the love that I feel for people. For everyone, my family, my friends, the homeless man on the street, the woman asking me for money at the gas station. Sometimes my heart just aches with the love I feel for all of humanity.
But how often do we feel these feelings and are afraid to share them?
The experience I have just had has changed me, and I am committed to always remembering and giving the love that I currently feel.
I have realized where true love comes from. What it looks like to actually love yourself and then be able to give that love away. What it looks like to hug someone and actually feel connected to them and feel your heart swell with gratitude and love for who they are being in your life. To know what it feels like to extend love without fear of how you might be received or who might reject you.
This is a moment that marks the "before" and "after".
On Friday night as I was soaking up my final day in San Diego I went down to Ocean Beach and walked down to the end of the Ocean Beach Pier and back. 1 mile of humanity. Men fishing. Teenagers kissing. Kids screaming. Women dancing. Girls on bikes. Families embracing. I had a song playing on repeat, "I Know a Place" (by Muna, see lyrics below), and as I made eye contact and smiled at every single person I passed I was just overwhelmed with love. I had tears streaming down my face with the joy I was feeling. I could have hugged every single person I saw, and probably should have.
"Even if our skin or our Gods look different. I believe all human life is significant. I throw my arms open wide in resistance. He's not my leader even if he's my president. No, let's build a place we can go. Where everyone gonna lay down their weapon. Just give me trust and watch what will happen. I know a place we can run. Where everyone gonna lay down their weapon."
Because what is this life if we don't give love? What is this life about if it's not about embracing strangers and our loved ones alike. What is this life if we don't take every single opportunity to spread joy in the world before it is too late.
We are seeing all kinds of breakdown in our world. Massive school shootings, children being torn apart from their families at the border, war, so much fear and hate.
Do you want to change the world?
I challenge you today to do what you can in being open to love. Being open to random hugs on the street from strangers. Being open to doing the hugging. Pull out your phone and text every person that you love. Go home and call your parents and express appreciation to them for all they've done, and if you can't call them because they are already gone, call someone else and let them know how they've made your life better.
When you open up your heart to love you find the capacity to love yourself and love other people. As Elbert Hubbard said, " Love grows by giving. The love we give away is the only love we keep. The only way to retain love is to give it away."
Dedicated to Sara Findlay, a beautiful angel in heaven.