Based in south Louisiana, Release & Gather is a blog by Holly Rabalais.  Her posts explore people, community, and matters of the heart.  Everyone has a unique journey.  Welcome to a window into hers.

Where is the Love?

Yesterday morning I made the mistake of hopping on Facebook for a quick break from work. I scrolled past story after story of the carnage in Orlando hoping to get past the depressing news without having to hear the details. Ignore it so it won't seem real--good coping mechanism. At last a headline won, and I read a mother's account of her last conversation with her son as he was trapped in a bathroom waiting for his sure death. I stepped into the horror of that mother as she could not help her son. I placed myself inside his panic as he messaged, "Mommy, I love you...I'm gonna die."

I had to take my own kind of refuge in a bathroom. Totally losing it to grief at work just isn't allowed.

An hour later, not able to shake the story from my mind, I decided to get out of the office for lunch around the corner. Chick-fil-A always makes you feel better, right? Good food, lots of smiles, all those "My pleasure"s. Perky.

I ordered my salad and chose a booth by a window so I could soak up some vitamin D then surveyed the other patrons: businessmen, a mom with her toddler, a state trooper, an elderly man reading a newspaper, and a guy wearing a do-rag and street clothes.

A server brought my salad over, and I continued to study the people around me, a sure distraction from my emotions. I had a good view of the drive-thru and wondered who the people were; where they were going; what kind of day they were having.

Halfway through my meal, the state trooper walked past me to the restroom. He emerged a bit later and paused in the area of the dining room where I sat before walking to the side of the service counter. The manager on duty talked quietly with him before he approached the man in the street clothes.

The toddler mom and I watched in bewilderment as the trooper spoke quietly to the man then asked him to leave. At some point I overheard the officer tell the man the manager said he had been in the restaurant since 7 a.m. The man protested the claim, shook his head as if understanding he was in a losing battle, then stood and collected his things: a backpack, cell phone, phone charger, Chick-fil-A cup, and Chick-fil-A sandwich box (which I'm fairly sure they don't use when serving breakfast). He left the restaurant without incident.

"What just happened here?" said the toddler mom, expressing my very thoughts. The trooper said something about the guy loitering, but I couldn't hear all that he said because I was so outraged. After the trooper walked away the toddler asked what happened. "They asked him to leave because of the way he looked." 

She turned to me and said in disbelief, "He bought his food and was just eating a meal like everyone else."

The sickness in my stomach grew as we exchanged a few more words then I put the lid on my salad container. After procuring a bag at the counter, I said "If that man can't eat here, neither can I. I'm very disappointed in what just happened here and will not be back in this restaurant." Her confusion told me she knew nothing of the events in the dining room.

"The man--the man who was just asked to leave." I knew she would hear about it later so I didn't attempt to explain further.

As I drove from the parking lot I saw the man sitting at a patio table at a nearby coffee shop. I pulled my truck into the empty space in front of him and got out.

"Sir, I have no idea how long you were in that restaurant..."

"I wasn't in there since 7 this morning."

"What I do know," I continued, "is that you ate a meal that you bought, and you seemed to be minding your own business in a restaurant that had multiple tables open. There was no reason for them to ask you to leave. I dare say if you had looked different and were reading your newspaper or chatting with friends, this would not have happened. It's disappointing. All the evil that's happening in this world, and this is how we are treating each other. I want you to know that you matter. I did not even finish my lunch because if you can't eat there, neither can I. From one human being to another, I am so sorry this happened to you."

The man kept thanking me as I spoke then stood up when I finally stopped talking. There was no asking if it was okay if either of us gave the other a hug. It just happened. A hug that said, "I see you, and I care."

"I love you," I said. "And that's because of Jesus Christ."

Love one another. If we simply focused on that, we wouldn't look at a person and think, "Oh, he looks like a vagrant so he must be shady." We wouldn't stand by and let someone be treated differently because of the clothes they wear or the color of their skin.

If we truly loved one another, how would our actions and attitudes change?

Note: The other night my son went old school and started playing "Where is the Love?" by the Black Eyed Peas. I guess it's been playing in my head since then, hence the title. I think the lyrics to the song fit exactly what I'm trying to say:

What's wrong with the world, mama
People livin' like they ain't got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma
Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin'
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that's exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y'all, y'all
People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach?
Or would you turn the other cheek?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love, the love, the love
It just ain't the same, old ways have changed
New days are strange, is the world insane?
If love and peace are so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don't belong?
Nations droppin' bombs
Chemical gasses fillin' lungs of little ones
With ongoin' sufferin' as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin' really gone
So I could ask myself really what is goin' wrong
In this world that we livin' in people keep on givin' in
Makin' wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin' each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin' on but the reason's undercover
The truth is kept secret, it's swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where's the love, y'all, come on (I don't know)
Where's the truth, y'all, come on (I don't know)
Where's the love, y'all
People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach?
Or would you turn the other cheek?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love, the love, the love?
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I'm gettin' older, y'all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin'
Selfishness got us followin' the wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema
Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we're spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down
There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under
Gotta keep my faith alive 'til love is found
Now ask yourself
Where is the love?
Father, Father, Father, help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love?
Sing with me y'all:
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That's all we got)
One world, one world
And something's wrong with it (Yeah)
Something's wrong with it (Yeah)
Something's wrong with the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got
(One world, one world)
That's all we got
(One world, one world)

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