There are protests that allow us to stand in solidarity with others who share our values, beliefs and common concerns about the state of our democracy. And then there are acts of compassion that quiet our fears and help us through times of grief and loss when these deeply held beliefs are threatened with extinction.
When the shocking results of the recent national election came in, many of our citizens were not prepared for the terrifying and disheartening feelings that would suddenly overcome them. I was one of them. It was a sleepless night of profound anxiety over the prospect that decades, if not centuries, of progress toward achieving the American dream of liberty, inclusiveness and respect for the rights of others had just received a deathblow.
With heavy heart and head hung low on my way into work on the CU Boulder campus, I was greeted at the steps of Norlin Library by a young man with the most penetrating, burden-bearing and compassionate gaze that one could ever hope to receive — especially at a time like this! In a flash, a powerful surge of hope, trust and love suddenly overcame the sense of dread and despair that had pitilessly possessed me overnight. And then, when he reached out to offer me a silent hug, my worst fears quickly vanished into the thin, crisp air of a new dawn. My profound mourning had been warmly embraced and tenderly transformed on this most memorable of mornings.
The young man's name is Ari Groobman, a brilliant student attending CU on a prestigious merit-based Boettcher Scholarship. The night before, when the election results were unfolding, he had sensed how brokenhearted and fearful people might become. So he woke up early to create some signs with the words "We Still Stand," "Goodness will Rise" and "#Hugs for Hope," and then headed out to the campus to begin his daylong vigil and healing action that gradually was joined by other passers-by.
Ari wrote about his experience in a Facebook event called "We Still Stand."
Never underestimate the power of a compassionate hug and a tender smile to bring forth healing and the restoration of hope in times of mourning and the dashing of one's dreams. For this senior citizen, hope on Earth and the American Dream will once again live on.
Michael Riberdy is a media producer/director with the University of Colorado Libraries.