Love amidst the ruins

It seems strange to think of a riot on Valentine’s Day (although, considering its mythical origins, maybe not). But amidst an afternoon of research for my students, I stumbled on an insight that is strangely appropriate for a holiday otherwise dedicated to commercial expressions of love.

As you know, I married the Chancellor on June 12, 2011, and he whisked me away to Vancouver for our honeymoon. On June 15, 2011, we toured the delights of the city and spent our evening in the hotel room, glued to the TV that reported a riot unfolding after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins. What’s to say about the riot itself? A bunch of angry, stupid people punched Vancouver in the face and demanded a fight. It was ugly and scary, especially watching plumes of smoke emerge only a few blocks away from our hotel window.

The next day as we ventured forth into the city again, it had been transformed into a wasteland of trash, broken glass, and stains. Yet, it was in this day that we witnessed a mini-miracle. People actually volunteered in shifts, whether an hour or two before work, or during lunch break, to help clean up the city that others had tried to destroy. Brooms came out, coffee was passed to volunteers, and boards covered the shattered windowpanes.

By the end of the afternoon, people began writing love-notes to a city they couldn’t bear to see defaced. The plain boards were littered with sorrow, adoration, and determination to carry on and show the world that a fierce and undying love for the real Vancouver could never be eclipsed by a moment of hatred.

It’s that simple sentiment–“We Love Van”–that resonates with me to this day. What would our world look like if our love was greater than our hate? If we could bring love up from the ruins of our corrupted world and transform hideous ugliness into a strange and delicate beauty?

There will always be despair, fear, corruption, and anger. But deeper and more beautiful sentiments and ideas never die, so long as we remember to show them in our lives.

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