My Time in Virginia Beach

Hugging municipal workers, police officers, first responders and other Virginia Beach citizens as a way to help the community heal and deal with the aftereffects of the May 31st mass shooting that left 13 dead and others wounded was an emotional study in contrasts for me.

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On one hand, I stood in the Green Cat Juice Bar and Cafe - a place that serves healthy meals and juices- on a very sunny day giving out hugs, high5s and bits of happiness.

On the other hand, I did this in the face of listening to some people’s accounts of where they were and what they did at the time of the shooting.

Each story was tough to listen to but one was especially so.

One person who was a freshman at Virginia Tech at the time of the April 2007 mass shooting that took 33 lives. The more we spoke of my experiences of going to areas affected by violence and mayhem -the more they opened up about their experiences and lingering anxiety. Tears welled in their eyes by the time we actually hugged and there was a bit of a tremor in their voice as they said, “ I don’t know how much I can take.” Later adding, “I don’t know how much more any of us can take."

As I said, it was an emotional day.

But, those intense moments were offset by the smiles and embraces of random cafe customers who were pleasantly surprised about what I was doing. One of those people was a West Texas pastor who only meant to come in to get a quick bite but, ended up chatting about my travels and perspectives for over an hour and even hugged people with me after a while.

Between 7AM and 6PM, I put in a full day and hugged almost 100 people and even though there was a lot of contrast within the various life stories I heard; the lightness of the human heart outshone any darker moments. I drove away from Virginia Beach feeling hopeful.

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I also drove away feeling thankful for my relationship with Advantage Rent A Car. Now, this may seem like a contrived pitch but it really isn’t because in this time where many companies just focus on profits and losses - Advantage Rent A Car saw the great human value in something as simple as an embrace.

Mike MillerComment