The Bliss Blog

Devonte Hart and Portland, Oregon police officer Bret Barnum have their special moment. 


An image that has gone viral is one of vivid beauty and penetrating humanity. A tearful African American child in the midst of a rally over the death of someone else’s son and a riot gear attired White police officer who takes this young man up on his offer for a hug, thus creating a ripple effect and heightened the conversation of what true healing and reconciliation means.  The photo above was taken moments before, and in my opinion is even more poignantly and viscerally human as it reflects the juxtaposed vulnerability that existed between a child and adult, one with authoritative power one armed with the power of love; the two brought together by Divine invitation.

I  had the opportunity to connect with the award winning Portland, Oregon photographer who found herself at the same instant, called by that same pull. Her name is Jan Sonnemair and she has written about her experience of what I think of as a ‘goose bump/God bump moment’. Please read her story to enrich your own understanding of what transpired;  the ripples of which will splash over every one it touches. I certainly felt drenched, even though I was not there to witness it.

As the story is unfolding, it seems that Devonte Hart is a consummate hugger. Adopted by Jen and Sarah Hart, Devonte had a challenging start to his life. Born into addiction and poverty, abuse and violence, he rose above his circumstances, nourished by love and with an insatiable desire to make a difference in the world. That he has, even before the iconic photo that followed. Clearly, he has proven that our history is not our destiny. I imagine that he and his mothers had no clue that the day they awoke and decided to attend the rally in Portland, that he would make history. I’m equally sure that Sgt. Bret Barnum couldn’t have predicted how his day would unfold. Both are heroes in my eyes.

A world wide FREE HUGS wave has been re-created and washes over wounds, piecing back together the fragments that what happened in Ferguson and is happening on streets around the globe, have torn asunder. I love the sentiment behind the movement and have participated in several, including one on Valentines’ Day weekend when friends and I staged a FREE Hugs flash mob at 30th Street Station here in the City of Brotherly Love.

Another that jumped out at me today and brought me to tears and cheers was spontaneously offered in Hollywood, California as a means of ending racial discrimination.

As a species, we are starved for deeper ways of connecting. Maybe that is why we fight and kill, cry and bleed, destroy and tear apart. The Jimi Hendrix quote: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace,” speaks volumes about the healing that can take place in a flash of brilliance, inspiration and camera shutter.

I bless you, Devonte, Bret, and Jan.  Sending you big hugs from here~


Photo credit for the image of Devonte Hart and Bret Barnum:  Jan Sonnemair


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