I recently attended the reception after a funeral service for a fallen Sheriff’s Deputy. I was there as a volunteer to help out with the setup and serving of around 1,000 people. When the procession reached the banquet hall and the family of the Sheriff started to slowly walk in, all of us volunteers stood like sentinels around the edges of the room, manning our food and drink stations and ready to help or answer any questions of the group.
It was quiet at first and my heart pinched knowing what they had all just gone through at the service. But as more and more people filed in their voices started to rise to conversation level and the greetings began. I watched as one after the other, people began to hug all over the room. I felt the tears fill my eyes with a sharp sting as I witnessed their private moments with a friend, family member, co-worker, or even a near stranger. Hug after hug and kind words were exchanged.
And then I noticed a pattern to it all. Each person would pat the other on the back exactly 3 times during the hug. Repeatedly, I watched the hugs and saw that the upper hand on the back always patted gently, and always 3 times. Men hugging women did it, men hugging men did it, and women hugging women. The women were more gentle, and the men, especially the other Sheriff’s deputies, gave a more solid and sometimes audible pat.
I started to hear words in my head that went with the pats on the back.
“It’s. O. K.”
“I. Am. Here.”
“You. Are. Loved.”
“Let. Me. Help.”
“Lean. On. Me.”
“I. Love. You.”
However you interpret it, it comes down to the same thing: humanity. And I felt fortunate to witness it that day because it filled me with hope.