Haunted by a Hit to the Heart (and what it means)

On January 2, 2023, in a Buffalo Bills/Cincinnati Bengals game, Buffalo Bill Damar Hamlin tackled Tee Higgens. Mr. Higgens, running full-speed hit Mr. Hamlin in the chest and head area. In a weird, horrific accident, that hit caused Mr. Hamlin’s heart to short-circuit and stop. Damar Hamlin is now out of the hospital and back home in Buffalo. I have no idea what impact this will have on his career. I wonder what impact it will have on Tee Higgens? 

This was a powerful moment to share.

I have been haunted by the fact that when struck just right/wrong, a heart, thought to be safe within its bony cavity can stop. Can break. Evolution has done what it can to keep us safe. But there are always ways around evolution, aren’t there? 

I keep thinking about trajectory, about how much of life is about collision. Some of it is accidental, but much of it is set up that way. When we survive the collision, we feel tougher, more heroic, but what virtue is there in living on a collision course? Do we really want the term heroic reserved for those who survive collisions? How much better would it be to create a world that offers cushions against collisions? Cushions of Peace… Cushions of collaboration. I’m not sure what we do about games. I think in football’s case we’re probably going to see equipment that reflects and protects against such accidents. But overall, why create a world where we pit ourselves against each other to declare winners, rather than one where we work alongside one another to create and increase possibilities for peace?

What has been wandering around in my brain and heart is what happens to the physical heart when emotional hits catch us in exactly the right/wrong place. We say our hearts stop when our psyches are attacked. We say our hearts break. We say this when a beloved suddenly dies, or an accident happens, or we suffer a sudden separation from a friend or lover. 

There are so many places to work on making better collaborations — from the personal to the political. The other day, on my first day as a chaplain, I witnessed teams of young doctors working together in the trauma bay. They each had jobs and they each stood ready to help each other and help the patient. In the most frightening and time-sensitive situations, together, they reach their hands into bodies and pull out miracles. That’s our work, isn’t it, pulling out the miracles? It’s not the magnitude it’s the possibility and plentitude of the miracles in which we wish to participate. 

What other cushions of Peace might there be? Let us consider together. And then let us take action as it seems right, helpful and appropriate.

In Annie, they sing, It’s the Hard Knock Life,” despite the warnings not to sing and dance, but the kids work together. OK, it’s a musical, but despite the fact that Life is challenging, we can offer support rather than obstacles. We can offer cushions of Peace. We can be cushions of Peace. And, why not? 

Salaam, Shalom, Peace. Blessed be.