I’m a sucker for humanity. I love touchy-feely stories of love, hope, kindness, and self-sacrifice.
Contention makes me a little uncomfortable. I can handle it but it just sets my heart at unrest. Because I’m a Mormon I’ve experienced some pretty intense contention directed at me. I’ve been called a bigot for standing for traditional marriage. (I still self-talk myself through one really personal de-friend not because I am hurt but I am sad I may have really hurt someone else with my unwillingness to change my religious views.) I’ve survived an anonymous commenter on my old blog who for years always told me how stupid I was for my beliefs. (She/he is the reason I don’t have commenting open on this blog – I just don’t need anonymous stalkers who are cruel.) I’ve been teased by one of my very best friends about getting magical underwear after attending the temple for the first time. (I flipped her off – not my finest moment. I still love you friend, if you happen to be reading. Glad we can agree to disagree.)
A few years back when I attended the LDS Women’s General Meeting in SLC some anti-Mormons got sneaky and handed out their propaganda inside tissue packets. The attendees just thought someone was doing something really nice by handing out the tissues and were accepting them in droves. The meetings can get pretty emotional when you start feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost and tissues are always a welcome commodity. I am not afraid of a fight. Once I figured out what was going on, I gathered up all the tissues I could find and took them back to the lady on the corner with the wicker basket. I said calm yet firm, “I would never in a million years come and crash your church gathering and hand out crap against your church leaders.” I filled her basket back up with my stack of retrieved tissues and walked away. She was speechless. For the next two hour meeting I sat with a lump in my heart feeling like I should have been more kind. I let her offend me and I should have just showed her love and invited her inside to see what she was so threatened about.
This past Saturday we took our kids back to Salt Lake City for General Conference. Kids under eight years old aren’t allowed to attend and so LG took our older three girls into the Conference Center and I took Caroline across the street to listen wherever we could park ourselves. (We ended up in the basement of the Visitor’s Center in an almost empty theater with stadium seating – Rock on!) There are always a lot of protesters on the sidewalks and we passed one particularly vocal one. He was saying things like, “Your underwear is dirty. You are not saved. You are fools. You are deceived.” You know – the typical. I got a thought, “Go give him a hug.” I chuckled. No way! He was so loud and everyone couldn’t help but give him attention while passing by, there was no way I was going to put myself up for a lashing like that especially with Caroline in tow. I walked on. We watched the meeting and then passed him again while going to meet back up with LG. The thought came again, “Go give him a hug.”
As we sat and waited for LG at the end of the sidewalk I couldn’t shake the impression. Once he and the girls arrived I told LG, “I’ll be right back, there is something I have to do.” He questioned knowing I am never afraid to stick up for myself and probably a little afraid he might have to pick me up from jail, “Alice, what are you going to do? Are you going to get into trouble?” “No, no”, I assured him. “Just give me a second, I will be right back.” I ran back to the protester with the beard, the Mormon temple clothes wrapped around his wrists and the sign that said, “You are going to hell.” Now a really large crowd had gathered. I chuckled a prayer up to God, “You’ve got a sense of humor, you know.” And then I prayed the hug-receiver wouldn’t hit me. I walked right up to him as an obvious person on the opposite end of his views. Amazingly he quieted. I looked him in the eye and said, “Can I give you a hug?” He looked dumbfounded. As he answered I closed the space to not get fully rejected. He said, “I don’t think my wife will appreciate that.” I said, “How about a half hug then?” I quickly wrapped my left arm around his back and squeezed his left shoulder as he watched suspiciously. I explained, “I try to always follow any promptings that I get and this morning my prompting was to give you a hug.” I’ll give him credit as a human. He wasn’t mean. He didn’t hit me. He didn’t yell at me. He smiled. I smiled back and then returned without incident to my waiting husband relieved that he wouldn’t have to bail me out. It felt good to love my enemy.
I hope God doesn’t ask me to do something crazy like that again, but I hope if he does, I’ll have the courage.
I stole this photo off the internet. Oh internet police, please be kind. I needed a visual to match the story. My protester was right inside that gate on the left. Not shown in this photo…although that kind of looks like it could be him on the right sans his 5 other signs and temple clothes.
Funny side story. Abigail told her seminary teacher about this exchange on Monday and I guess he shared it with several of his classes. On her way home from school a lot of her friends asked her if I was the one who had hugged the protester. I guess I have a reputation as the crazy lady. I guess that is why I can still love my enemy….I can relate to them. I get their craziness and I get their passion. Even if we have polar opposite views, I mostly get that we share humanity and that is a beautiful beautiful thing.