I originally wrote this post in the heat of the moment amidst the protesting, rioting, and grieving of the deaths of two of our community members here in Charlotte, NC.
But, I didn’t post it in the heat of the moment.
I’m sure you saw the media coverage of what happened here in Charlotte a couple weeks ago. My opinions, my thoughts, my ideas regarding everything didn’t particularly matter at that moment. And, they probably still don’t, but something amazing and beautiful happened to me last weekend as I went on a run through Uptown Charlotte.
That Saturday morning I put my, what were probably unsound, fears aside and headed to the YMCA to run my typical two-mile route through uptown before a session at the gym. It was the first time I went into uptown in a week.
I embarked on that run, unsure of what I was to witness after the protesting and rioting. Would there be trash everywhere? Signs? Windows boarded up and shattered glass everywhere? Questions I was anxious to have answered.
And to my surprise, it was the same Charlotte that I’ve run many, many times before. The buildings were as beautiful as ever. It was clean. It was quiet.
But, at the same time, it wasn’t the same. And I could feel a difference.
It was a Charlotte that, after many days of unrest, was working on rebuilding itself. It was a Charlotte that had taken a stand for something that caught the nation’s eye. It was a Charlotte that was not what we saw on that Tuesday and Wednesday, but was the community we know and love that made itself present on Thursday and Friday. It was a Charlotte of hope, community, and love – with smiling faces out and about and lots of other runners, like myself.
I felt happy. Not happy because of what happened in our city and to those in our community, but happy because our community is banding together to rebuild.
At that point, I decided to diverge from my usual path and head to Romare Bearden Park. This was a starting point for some of the protesters.
Upon running up to the park, my interest was piqued when I saw a man taking a selfie with a cop with big, bright smiling faces. “How cool,” I thought. I took this time to stop running, and what I stumbled upon was absolutely amazing. There, in the middle of Romare Bearden Park, was a giant painting of John Lennon. Colorful, beautiful, and awe inspiring. I walked around the painting, and in doing so a man sitting under a pavilion waved hello with a huge smile and said, “Good morning.”
In fact, everyone in the park was smiling.
A woman, walking her dog, was also circling the painting, taking it all in.
I noticed a bit off to the side were two men. One, with longish blonde hair and a shirt that read, “Peace, Love, Happiness.” I approached him and asked if he knew who painted the painting. He said he did. Originally from Austin, TX, he had traveled up to NYC to present his painting for the International Day of Peace and upon returning home decided to take a detour and bring his painting to us, here in Charlotte, in the hopes of spreading some peace to us in our community.
His name is Eric Waugh (www.ericwaugh.com). And he’s awesome. He’s also the man who was taking a selfie with the cop.
As I tried to get a couple more pictures of the painting, the woman who was walking the dog came up and said “Hello,” and we walked together and tried to take more pictures from different angles. She asked for my number so she could send them via text, and then we said, “Have a great day!” and parted ways.
I left the park feeling inspired and hopeful for what’s to come.
That’s Charlotte. That’s us.
We’re a community of people who are loving and friendly and kind.
I’m here to share with my Charlotte community and those across the nation that we’re still a beautiful city who loves and cares about one another. We’re banding together to fight injustices, but we’re also banding together to support those in our community.
We’re rebuilding our city and we’re coming together to make it better. We’re spreading peace and love. And we’re doing it because we’re a community who cares about one another.