Sometimes all it takes is a hug.
Dressed in worn, dark colored sweatshirt, a man attempts to walk invisibly past the plate glass window separating himself from a group of people gathered inside.
“Love on each other,” says the voice from the front of the room. “Go out there and love on others.”
I’m sitting inside a small corner building. Exposed red brick and unfinished walls are patched together with reclaimed wood and particleboard. The floor reveals a large gap tooth where a bar once served patrons late into the night. A church is probably the last thing any former flock imagined for their space.
In modest room comparable to some people’s garage, lives are charged, recharged, and being changed forever.
The man in the blue sweatshirt quietly slips through the rear door. Developing stealth-like skills are, unfortunately, a means of survival for many below the safety net of life.
I notice the oversized blue sweatshirt moving towards a small table with coffee and donuts. The hood is pulled up and hangs heavily around the man’s face. Although well worn and dirty, the sweatshirt is by far the best piece of clothing the man owns on this day.
The pastor continues to speak to the group, encouraging his flock to invest themselves in those outside the walls of the small church. Those inside the wall are here for spirituality, for inspiration, for guidance.
“Go outside these doors,” says the pastor. “Remember who it was Jesus served.”
The acoustics of the room are authentic – words and notes of music dancing and intermingling as imperfectly as the world outside.
The man in the oversized blue sweatshirt turns my way, his right hand stirring the small straw in his cup. His eyes dart away from mine as if not to make eye contact. I understand.
It is then the world opens up. With group focused to the front, a woman walks over the man in the blue sweatshirt and puts her arm around him. She might know him; she might not. But the man in the blue sweatshirts responds. His face looks slightly up and his posture breaks from his effort to remain invisible. He’s touched – and not only in the literal sense. The woman’s touch is one he thirsts for, a validation of his existence – a sign that someone sees him.
I think about the words from the front of the room – the charge to go through the doors and find those who need to hear someone cares, to know someone believes in them, to feel the caring touch of another human being.
The hug is unremarkable to anyone who does not know the story, know the circumstances. But the hug shared in the room that morning is the physical manifestation of a cool drink of water to a man who finds himself wandering though the hopeless dessert of life. To him, the figurative drink of water rejuvenates his heart, his body, his soul. For that moment, he exists thanks to love.