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Acts of Love: In Vino Veritas

As the adage goes, “It’s not how we love someone when we love them, but how we love someone when we hate them that counts.”  How easy it is to love someone who conveniently fits into and aligns with our values, ideas, purposes or interests.  The challenge and opportunity comes when we’re faced with a choice in that moment when it may be difficult not to react or to send them love.  The light that is revealed when we disarm someone with love is tremendous.  It is easy to imagine what we might do or say in a potential situation where it is extremely difficult to love somone; however the true test comes when the situation presents itself and that goodwill we were sure we would have suddenly feels stripped away.

If we shifted our perspective when it came to how we view other people’s behaviors in situations it would be much easier to transform and heal the events around us that are taxing or difficult to understand.  At the risk of oversimplification, it is true nonetheless: Everything anyone ever does is either an act of love or a cry for help. This family was sitting down to dinner and robbed at gunpoint.  In that moment, they had a decision.  To act from fear or to act from love.  The outcome of their decision was powerful. 

Intruder Pulls Gun on Dinner Party, Then Asks for Hugs

(AP)  July 13, 2007

 WASHINGTON —  Washington, D.C., police are baffled by an attempted robbery in the Capitol Hill neighborhood that began with a handgun put to the head of a teenager and ended in a group hug.

It started about midnight on June 16 when a group of friends was finishing a dinner of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp on the back patio of a District of Columbia home. That’s when a hooded man slid through an open gate and pointed a handgun at the head of a 14-year-old girl.

“Give me your money, or I’ll start shooting,” he said, according to D.C. police and witnesses.

Everyone froze, including the girl’s parents. Then one guest spoke.

“We were just finishing dinner,” Cristina “Cha Cha” Rowan, 43, told the man. “Why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?”

The intruder had a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupery and said, “Damn, that’s good wine.”

The girl’s father, Michael Rabdau, 51, told the intruder to take the whole glass, and Rowan offered him the whole bottle.

The robber, with his hood down, took another sip and a bite of Camembert cheese. He put the gun in his sweatpants.

The story then turns even more bizarre.

“I think I may have come to the wrong house,” he said before apologizing. “Can I get a hug?”

Rowan, who works at her children’s school and lives in Falls Church, Va., stood up and wrapped her arms around the armed man. The four other guests followed.

“Can we have a group hug?” the man asked. The five adults complied.

The man walked away a few moments later with the crystal wine glass in hand. Nothing was stolen, and no one was hurt.

Once he was gone, the group walked into the house, locked the door and stared at each other — speechless. Rabdau called 911, and police came to take a report and dust for fingerprints.Police classified the case as strange but true. Investigators have not located a suspect. The witnesses thought he might have been high on drugs.

“We’ve had robbers that apologize and stuff but nothing where they sit down and drink wine. It definitely is strange,” said Cmdr. Diane Groomes, adding that the hugs were especially unusual. “The only good thing is they would be able to identify him because they hugged them.”

Sometimes through the courageous act of choosing love over fear that light completely dissolves the darkness.  I remember when my brother finished medical school and he had to  focus on under-served areas under the stipulations of a scholarship.  He spent some time volunteering in homeless shelters, seeing patients in ghettos (and the coup-de-grace), imagine my reaction when he told his big sister that he – fearless as he’s always been – was toying with the idea of doing work in prisons.  “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but this is where I draw the line. You are not working with ex-convicts. You don’t need to martyr yourself to help the world.” 

Of course, I was petrified at the risks involved and the thought of what I perceived to be his naivete, but he taught me something very valuable.  In situations where most of us would act in fear (being closed, choosing self-protection and “safety”) he walks straight into the darkness without judgment and in love and utter fearlessness, and the sum of what he produces is always beautiful.  People who, for most of their lives, have been treated as outcasts, or have dealt with abuse before they became hardened criminals when given trust and love are humanized; this is when miracles happen dissipating a lot of the darkness, illusion and preconceived notions.  Through his fearlessness, non-judgment and respect, the respect and love they gave him in return was double.  Every last trace of fear around the situation, gone.

That is exactly what this family did.  One could read this story and think, “Are you out of your mind?  Are you naive? This man has a gun and you’re going to invite him to sit down to dinner?”  But this fear is an illusion and it’s a bubble that can be popped with arrows of love, kindness and certainty.  For every argument someone gives against fighting fear with more fear, there are a million other examples where love won out and injected light and healing into a seemingly hopeless or dangerous situation.

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