Open your heart to a love story.
The Best Kind of Love Story
I think everyone has a favorite kind of love story. Some like the love-at-first-sight kind. Others favor the against-all-odds type. Most are fans of the happily-ever-after variety. I confess to liking them all. But recently I have become enthralled by another kind of love story, the kind that touches countless others.
You may remember one in particular. Last month, during a televised NFL game, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after tackling a Cincinnati Bengals player. Between the fans at the stadium and the at-home viewers, millions of people saw the play, the hit, and the collapse. In those initial moments it may not have been clear what was going on with Hamlin, but it was obvious that it was serious. After the ambulance left the field, players from both teams comforted one another, visibly distressed.
The details would become known in the hours and days that followed. The collision caused Hamlin’s heart to stop. Immediate CPR and defibrillation saved his life. Football fans from across the league followed the news of his recovery, stunned that cardiac arrest could happen to a 24-year-old in peak physical condition.
For several days, fans and others gathered outside the hospital and left notes and gifts. They prayed. Donations to Hamlin’s charity toy drive soared.
Amazingly, the sudden stopping of one heart triggered the sudden opening of so many others. The prayers, vigils, and donations were not limited to Bills fans or even those who care about football. With each encouraging news report about Hamlin’s progress—awake, communicating, breathing on his own, transferred from Cincinnati to a Buffalo hospital, discharged from inpatient treatment—I, like so many others, felt uplifted.
It’s been the best kind of love story. Rather than just a closed loop of two people or even a small group, this story captured and captivated the hearts of so many people who didn’t know Hamlin, or who were not from Buffalo, or who didn’t know or care one whit about football.
What if we could attune ourselves so keenly to another’s struggles? What if we would respond with open-hearted urgency and allow ourselves to care so deeply?
I wonder how the world would change if we could do this all the time. What if we could attune ourselves so keenly to another’s struggles? What if we would respond with open-hearted urgency and allow ourselves to care so deeply? We already do this for those whose troubles are known to us. But most of life’s bigger upsets and sudden traumas don’t happen on live television or in front of millions of people, and they often escape our notice.
So what can we do? We can make a choice to pay closer attention to what the people on the periphery of our lives are going through. We can reach out and ask whether they’re okay. We can take compassionate action without needing to be asked. We can pray. We can care.
This year, Valentine’s Day will arrive on the heels of the Super Bowl. The Bills are no longer in contention, but I had hoped for Hamlin that his team would have stayed in the running and made it to the championship game.
I remember reading one of several news updates in the early part of Hamlin’s recovery. Once he awoke in the hospital but before he could speak, the first question he wrote was, “Did we win?” Although the game at the time was suspended, his doctor reportedly responded, “Yes, Damar, you won. You won the game of life.”
All of us who hoped and prayed for Hamlin’s recovery won something too. We won the game of love. I pray this is only the beginning of this kind of immediate, open-hearted response and that we will continue to eagerly join together in compassion and care.
It will be the best kind of love story.