November 8, 2010 4:10-5:10 pm
Washington and State
“An hour? That’s not very long.
When’s the last time you hugged someone for an hour?
Last weekend. And that was just a taste.”
This week’s hug was very special indeed. This week we had two more huggers join us, Rachel and Aiden. They were enthusiastic and jumped right in. They even brought their own red clothes!
The four of us definitely attracted a lot of attention, both while we were hugging and on our walk. Apparently four people in red are hard to miss!
There is so much to say about this hug, which was enjoyable, energizing, and affirming. But the most affecting part for me was being stationed near the preacher outside Old Navy. He’s the one who is always telling people they are going to hell. Apparently, the preacher’s name is Samuel Chambers and he has been preaching his interpretation of the word of God in Chicago for almost 35 years now. He preaches outside the Old Navy 8 or 9 hours a day, 6 days a week. He believes it is his calling.
Sometimes I think about Samuel Chambers when I think about the kind of artmaker I want to be. I want to set high aspirations for myself and be committed to my practice. However some artists take commitment to the extreme– sacrificing security, friends, and even their health– in order to make art. I call this crazy artmaking. Artists who believe art is the sole purpose for being on this earth are like Samuel Chambers. Both have good intentions but are actually making everyone around them feel like crap. Perhaps I digress.
Well, Samuel Chambers was definitely preaching up a storm during our hug: “You can’t get into Heaven smokin’ those cigarettes. You can’t get into Heaven bein’ a homosexual…”
“I hope you go to hell and die,” one woman retorted when she passed.
“Fuck you,” another man said to the preacher.
Now, I hate to judge, but I believe his message breeds anger and resentment. Maybe some people appreciate his rantings, but I definitely didn’t meet anyone who did as I stood on the corner hugging Sara for an hour. We stationed ourselves near him in an attempt to counteract his hateful messages with a more peaceful one. I think it worked.
“That man is crazy. But these friends are sane,” a mother said to her 4-year old as they passed.
Aiden and Rachel hugged across the street. “I guess everyone’s doing it,” a woman said to Sara and me. One couple hugging is strange. Two couples hugging is a trend?
I stand facing the entrance to Old Navy and the preacher. Two women exit Old Navy. They notice Sara and I hugging right away and starting singing to one another in ASL. One of the women has a big rainbow on her sweatshirt. The two go up to our sign and take a flyer. After reading it they look over at us, smile, and then hug and kiss each other on the lips. Right in front of the preacher. It brought tears to my eyes in the moment and again now as I am writing about it.
I am lucky to be alive and surrounded by people who love me and will hug me for hours.
And if I’m going to hell and so are all these beautiful people then I look forward to it.