In the most recent issue of The Sun magazine is a beautiful little essay called The Sudden City by Brian Doyle. He writes about when his sister went to Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969. She didn’t spend her time doing drugs or dancing in the mud, but rather when she saw the sheer number of people, “she immediately sought out the medical tent and anyone with a shred of authority who would know how to distribute food and water, and she spent the next three days handing out water and sandwiches and blankets.” He says that the stories that are told about that festival are mostly about the music and how many people attended and all the mud, but that “perhaps the deeper story, the better story, the more substantive story, is how a sudden city of young Americans arose briefly on a hillside for one summer weekend, and not one got beaten up, and hundreds of people like my sister handed out water and sandwiches and blankets.”
I’m uncomfortable with politics and protests — anything involving large crowds and yelling really. Even in cases where it’s clear which side I agree with, it’s difficult for me to take sides, to be engaged in the tussle, involved in an argument. I’m much happier being the peacemaker, the helper. I’ve always said that when there’s a situation where there are people with signs and opinions and bullhorns, I’d be much happier handing out sandwiches, baking cookies for everyone. So this essay really stuck me as so true, so right. Doyle goes on to say,
People still do that sort of thing all the time, every day, in every city and country in the world, and we never talk about it, because most of the time we are hearing and talking about the reverse.
I’m weary of the reverse. I do not think that evil and greed and violence are the definitive characteristics of our species. Many readers will sneer at me for this, and they are right to be cynical and skeptical, for evidence of evil and greed and violence are everywhere at hand. Yet there are also millions of people who hand water and sandwiches and blankets to millions of other people. What are we to make of that?
Which makes me think of two things: that quote from Mr. Rodgers about helpers, and a video I saw the other day.
In the video, Ken E Nwadike Jr aka the Free Hugs Guy, visits both a Trump and a Bernie rally to give free hugs, and (not shockingly) gets very different responses.
This is the kind of brave I want in the world, the huggers and the helpers, not the kind that wants to punch people in the face, not the ones confused and blinded by their own hate. More water and sandwiches and blankets and hugs. THIS is who we are.