Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Free Hugs in Sondrio, Italy and an encounter in Sienna, Italy....

The video posted was a reminiscent of an experience I had on an extended trip to Europe a few years ago. While on my sojourn, caught up solely in the excitement and adventure of visiting a new city in Italy every few days, I had gotten out of the practice of taking care of my spiritual side. I was entranced by the sounds, sights, food, and culture.  A month or so into the trip, I found myself becoming oddly irritable at tiny things;  selfish and snippy as the days passed.  The humility and gratitude of being blessed with this trip of a lifetime had slipped away. Why? 
 As a participant in a Twelve Step program, I hadn’t taken “my medicine” in quite a long time. I failed to spend a few minutes with my God every morning, nurturing that relationship and practicing gratitude, a big dose of the suggested treatment for restless, irritable and discontent.  Arising one morning, feeling slightly edgy,  my thoughts turned to how much I did miss the Twelve Step influence back home, which I often take for granted; the slogans, the hugs and bonding with friends, just like me.  I took the time that morning to ask for forgiveness for my lack of gratitude... and a favor. I asked my Higher Power to touch me in some way so that I would feel His healing presence and be restored to a saner, more appreciative human being. 
Later that  day, while sightseeing in Sienna Italy, we rounded the corner into a very crowded piazza in front of the Duomo di Sienna.  Searching out  the best path to reach the church, we all stopped and peered over the heads of the throng of tourists.  Many yards across the piazza, I caught the eye of a lovely young woman carrying a clipboard.   Magnetically, her eyes locked on mine, as she weaved and gently pushed her way through the crowds.  When she stood directly in front of me, she spoke in broken English and said, “I need you to sign my petition. You see, this petition is for our government to provide funding and treatment for addicts, so they can become healthy and productive citizens again, just as my recovery has done for me.   I have been clean and sober for two years.” In disbelief, I said to her, “I am in recovery too... for 21 years!”   She took my hands and began reciting the serenity prayer in broken English, beckoning me to join in.  Then she took a very familiar token from her pocket.  The token was a recovery timeline coin given to her by an American tourist over a year ago.  The familiar triangle of Unity, Service and Recovery, brought tears to my eyes.  Right there in a heavily trafficked piazza, in front of a sacred church in Sienna, Italy, a young Italian woman and I shared a Twelve Step Meeting culminating in tears of gratitude and hugs.  My brother,  silently standing right next to us, said later, “I knew I was witnessing something magical and I just wanted to stand by and absorb the aura of it.  It was like an energy force was surrounding two women, thirty year age difference between them, an ocean of miles separating their cultures, two unique languages, yet they were the same." The invisible umbilical cord of affliction and path to recovery, formed a spiritual safe house that didn't leave any  doubt, we were all in presence of something much greater than ourselves. We parted company with a hug which caught fire and spread to others throughout the piazza. 
God had answered my prayer, out loud, in a very profound way. 
I am not alone, ever. I have a choice.   I can wallow in the  discontent or I can ask for what I need without creating the story of how it should be packaged.  All I need to do is open my heart, and my arms, to the messages, exactly as they come.   
When I watched this video this week, (thanks to my friend for sharing it with me) tears in my eyes, I was overcome witnessing the same power my brother must have seen. A simple hug ....evoking a smile, making someones day, or just reassuring we aren't alone. We don't know what it will mean to another. As flawed human beings, we tend think the worst of others even when they extend kindness, and many of us even mistrust our God from time to time. We don’t think our lives are safe in any one's arms, or that He knows what we need.  Just like hugs, He won’t force anything on us.  How often do we miss out on the greatest experiences simply because of our fears; if I let them hug me, they may harm me. Or, our need to be in control; I can't trust anyone else with this, I can't show them my vulnerability... I can take care of it by myself.  We weren't created to do it by ourselves.   If someone offers you hug, accept it!  It just might be God in disguise, giving you what you need;  a reminder you are not an island, you are a part of the Universal family, and for that reason alone, you are loved beyond understanding.  

For one moment our lives met, our souls touched. - Oscar Wilde