This years Love Walk didn’t begin at 11am on Valentine’s Day as was planned. Rather the seeds for this second annual walk were planted one year and two weeks earlier as I watched a super bowl commercial regale viewers with promises of free food if they participated in an act of kindness, like calling their mom while in line or hugging the cashier. I found myself thinking that this was a nice gesture but couldn’t shake an internal feeling that this worldwide company, along with many other corporations, had found a way to capitalize on kindness resulting in love, something priceless to me, becoming a commodity. This feeling, coupled with a recent personal event in my love life, made my heart hurt. I remember having internal screams of expletives and outwardly showing signs of cynicism about everything, from football to my own friends for days on end. I could feel those old curmudgeon workers that we all have inside of us laying down the brick for the inevitable wall that was to be built around my heart. Only, I didn’t want to be angry and cynical, all that had ever gotten me in the past was more anger and more cynicism. I wanted to find a way to open my heart more and see where that took me. I guess I could have seen a therapist or a life coach, gone to a yoga class, or meditated, doing any of those would have helped to ease the pain, but something else was calling my heart. It wasn’t about me anymore, it was about my friends, my family, my neighbors, my communities having a place to practice love, as the priceless thing that I knew it was. In a sense, these very personal feelings were calling me to serve something bigger than myself and my heartache. It was in this turmoil that the idea for a special kind of walk emerged, a walk that allowed anyone who wanted to practice loving others, specifically strangers, with no strings attached, to do so.
Fast forward to eleven am on Valentines day of this year, 2016. The invitations for the 2nd Annual Love Walk: No Strings Attached had gone out and about 20 people showed up, each with a different gift to give on one of Denver’s busiest pedestrian streets, the 16th Street Mall. From 12 year olds to well over 70 year olds we took off to give out hugs, smiles, and high fives along with candies, guitar and flute serenades, roses, and love notes to anyone who crossed our path. More than half of the walkers had never done anything like this before. There was some apprehension in approaching strangers at first but once folks got the hang of it they learned how to offer their candy or their hugs without needing it to be accepted. Although that rarely happened as most recipients were surprised and happy to accept our gifts, some so much so that they joined us for a few blocks of the two mile walk.
As our steps became stronger our smiles deepened, touching different parts of each of our hearts. Around one particular corner I spotted a young child that had already been tagged with a cut out heart from one of the walkers at the head of the pack. The young child’s smile and her moms smile were so big that it seemed every one of us wanted to stop and give them more hugs and chocolates and such. I later found out that the walker who had tagged her with the heart had also given the mom $50. This particular walker had taken an hour bus ride to get to our walk and on that bus ride had found a $50 bill. She recalled pondering all the things she could spend it on for herself but then something in her told her that this particular $50 was to go to someone else that day. She decided to hand it out to the person she thought needed it the most on our walk. At one point she approached a man, a fellow that looked to be homeless, and asked if he could use the money. He turned her down and said, “I don’t but my wife sure could use it, she’s around the corner. This would make her very happy as we’ve been struggling and she’s not too happy with me right now”. So she walked a few steps further and found this mom and her child around the corner looking upset. She gently walked up and handed her the heart with the money. The mom began to cry as they exchanged a hug. I suppose it’s a moment that both women will never forget. It’s these types of moments, and the subsequent showering of gifts upon this mom and her child, that are priceless. This, and all the other moments that went undocumented that day served to open hearts, if even for a moment, by taking at least one brick off the walls we create for ourselves to protect us from heartache. At least that’s what it did and continues to do for me.