It was totally unexpected. One minute I was standing with friends outside the Miami Dolphins football stadium, and the next I was waiting my turn for a hug from a woman I didn’t know.

Normally the events of a December weekend in South Beach, which include the glitzy night life of Miami’s hot spots and watching the Patriots beat the Dolphins, would be far more memorable than any single hug. After Friday’s shooting of 26 beautiful elementary students and their teachers, however, it took on a greater significance.

We all watched as the woman in the Jeep came to a stop, jumped out and shouted to us with arms open wide, “Free hugs!” She made her way over to our group, extending her arms to each of us. And she hugged us. A great-bug-bear hug kind of hug.

What causes one person to wade into a group of strangers and give them hugs and another to shoot them one after the other?

Is it just video games or television violence? A big-city juvenile court judge once commented that he never presided over a trial that was not preventable, but for a lack of love.

We all know instinctively that we have the power to see the good in others when no one else will, to accept another’s shortcomings and instantly create a space for them to grow, to notice one right while ignoring nine wrongs, so they can see the worth in changing the nine. Those answers are all in the mirror.

I didn’t understand then why the woman in Miami did what she did, but I do now. It’s a choice she made. I wish I could hug her one more time, that woman in the Jeep. If I could, I’d tell her she’s saving the world.

Brian Heath


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