‘People need to know that they are loved’
Quoted in The Angel’s Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman, 1994
This story is about angels. Not the winged, spiritual angels that are depicted with chubby, rosy cheeks. Or the ones whose presence we may feel even when no-one is around. Or the ones we see as a formation in the clouds in the sky. For angels come in different forms. It is about those angels who walk this earth and live amongst us: the human angels.
They are the strangers who enter our lives for a brief moment, gently offering a kind word, a smile of encouragement, a brief touch, or a big hug, brightening difficult days, and lessening our despair.
They lift humanity and spread love.
Lyndsay Bowes and Kristie Elgersma, both from Canada, met in October 2011. Part of the Anonymous movement, they were brought together in an unlikely place – on a phone line that was offering empathetic support for Occupiers around the world.
They realized that they held the same beliefs and concerns about humanity, the environment, politics, and inequality and injustice in the world.
With a strong belief in the goodness of people, they wanted to find a way to reconnect the human family, to build the empathy, compassion and trust that so often seems to have deserted us.
‘We decided to try to connect to people by showing compassion and love to random strangers, in the hopes of causing a “compassion tsunami”.’ Bowes explains.
‘So many people are living in poverty, are unhealthy, and are spending their lives bogged down by stress,’ Elgersma continues. ‘And it is these people who are easy to subjugate. We can’t help people financially or help them to be healthier, but we can help alleviate the stress a little by letting them know that someone out there cares. People need to know that they are loved.’
So they came up with a unique way to do this, and in January 2013, Op Human Angels was born. With a few friends by their side, they donned their imaginary wings and transformed themselves into human angels.
‘Once a month, we go into the streets and give free hugs. We leave inspirational messages of hope in random places like libraries, grocery stores and gas stations. And we write on roads, sidewalks and stairs with chalk,’ says Elgersma.
‘The first time I went out, I was very scared of rejection,’ recalls Bowes. ‘But the outpouring of love and reception of the hugs was shocking.’
‘Often people don’t understand what we’re doing. It’s unusual to them,’ continues Elgersma. ‘The most difficult thing to acknowledge is just how needed we are, based on the intense emotional response we get from so many people.’
‘When they know that we do not represent any organization or charity, and the hugs are free – that we are just trying to put more love in the world – I see a change in their eyes,’ Bowes explains. ‘It’s an incredible feeling to constantly shock people by not wanting anything from them.
‘It’s like a whirlwind of emotion, and it is all happening so fast. People are hugging and crying, and notes are passing around. It’s like a joy explosion happening at the speed of light! Our faces usually hurt from laughing and smiling after the first 20 minutes!’
Sometimes people unexpectedly join them. Bowes recalls being on a train platform when a young man in the army, after knowing what they were doing, grabbed a sign and went on the rest of the journey with them.
Elgersma’s most touching moment was in Washington DC, with an elderly man whose wife had passed away five years earlier. ‘He told us how much he missed her, and how difficult it was to go on without her. We reminded him of her because she was always trying to put more love in the world. And he really needed a hug that day.’
‘Our goal is to empower the people with love. Love is the great jail breaker. Love empowers. Love overcomes,’ Elgersma enthuses. ‘If there was enough love in the world, people would feel that they matter enough, that they are worth enough to engage the violent systems and structures we exist in today. We need love and peace in abundance on this planet. And we need everyone to create this together.’
The downtrodden, the lonely, the sick, the financially wealthy whose souls feel empty, and the poverty-stricken whose souls emit happiness – is there a person who does not need love?
Italian writer, actor anddirector, Luciano de Crescenzo once said: ‘We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.’
Just imagine a world where all of us are angels.
Help us keep this site free for all
New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism. Please support us with a small recurring donation so we can keep it free to read online.