This is a story about resistance, patience and love—my resistance, divine patience and an experience of love that was so profoundly humbling that I fell to my knees in simple gratitude. Here’s how it began: Late one afternoon in December 2003, I settled cross-legged on my couch to meditate. Very quickly, I entered the eternal emptiness familiar to those who meditate persistently. Some time passed; I don’t know how long. Suddenly, four words floated into my awareness: “You are loved. Here.” The cells of my body responded like miniature grails filled with joy. I knew I was loved, but unexpected reminders were welcome.
Aural messages were common during my meditations, but nothing prepared me for the words I heard next: “Put those words on a bumper sticker and give it away for Valentine’s Day.” That’s a waste of money, I thought indignantly. I tried to shake off the idea, but it asserted itself each time I meditated. I stopped meditating. Then the bumper-sticker idea snuck into my dreams. I told no one, yet a friend soon asked if I had ever considered creating bumper stickers.
Two weeks before Valentine’s Day 2004, I surrendered, only to learn (to my delight) that there was not enough time to print the stickers by February 14. “Good,” I thought. “I’m off the hook.”
Then another friend called and asked if I had any plans for Valentine’s Day. “Not anymore,” I said. I laughed and related the sticker story.
“Did you try online sticker companies?” she asked.
“No,” I groaned. An online company produced the stickers fast and affordably.
On February 13, my friend Susan Goodrich and I walked around downtown Sacramento distributing stickers. It was about 4 p.m., and people were leaving work. A man with gorgeous dreadlocks and a fine suit accepted a sticker. As he read, his chin twitched, and his eyes filled with tears. “Thank you,” he whispered, turning away. Other men we encountered were similarly moved. One woman refused, saying that she didn’t need a sticker; she had a boyfriend.
Susan and I walked over to the Capitol and offered stickers to people passing by. A throng of high-school students abruptly exited the Capitol. “Let’s give them stickers,” Susan said. “No,” I said. “It’s a waste. They’re too young to have cars.” The stickers were pricey, I thought. She shrugged and handed them out anyway. I stood nearby, watching.
“Can I have one of those?”
“Oh, sure,” I said, handing a sticker to a young man with a gold hoop earring in each ear. Other teenagers followed. Two boys about 17 years old approached. One was 5-foot-10 and Asian, with an inch of chin stubble. “Excuse me,” he said. He held two stickers gently in one hand. “Can I have another one of those?” he asked politely.
I hesitated. “What are you going to do with it? Give it to your girlfriend?”
“No,” he said. “I want to put them on the walls of my bedroom so that when I wake up in the morning, the first thing that I see will be this sticker.”
“Oh,” I said, instantly humbled. “Here, here. Take these,” I said, offering him a small stack.
“Thanks,” he said, politely returning the extras. “I only need one more.” The three of us stood beaming at each other. “Thank you for doing this,” he said. “I really needed it.” Then he and his friend turned and walked across L Street. I turned toward Susan, who was a few yards away, still offering stickers to people passing by. She smiled and waved, unaware of my conversation.
That night, haunted by that young man’s openness, I fell to my knees in gratitude for the privilege of being of service in the most unexpected way.