This is a small story about a man I encountered in San Francisco. The message of this story is simple and you can apply it to any situation you find yourself in.

I am an atmosphere person and am able to pick up the atmosphere a person puts off, the atmosphere of a room or even a city. I used to let the atmosphere affect me, whether it was good or bad. I never learned how to respond to the feeling of a room or a place. It was unhealthy. (I have since learned)

I was in San Francisco a few years ago visiting friends. We went to this amazing restaurant in this certain district of San Francisco. On this evening I was feeling an atmosphere and it was making me fearful. We sat in the front of this skinny, long restaurant that had the finest brick walls and the rustic feeling everyone dreams of. The restaurant was full and it was busy. It wasn’t a quiet place. My friend and I ordered Spaghetti and Meatballs and I have to say it was the best dish I had ever had!

The 4 of us were sitting around this old table. On one side were my two friends who sat on chairs facing the window, the other side was my friend and I sitting on a window seat with our backs to the window. The dinner was good and the conversation so full. Even though I was feeling fearful, I was still able to engage with those around me. I just pushed the unfounded fear down inside.

The evening continued and the night had set in. In the middle of our conversation my friend who was sitting across from me says, “Hey look at that man across the street, he is just staring at us!” I turned, looked outside and sure enough there was a man standing across the street by the bus stop starring at us. His stare wasn’t pleasant by any means. It was quite dark, piercing, and intrusive. It disturbed me and quite honestly contributed to the fear that I had let sit inside. He was dressed differently than your average person. He wore a white cloak that hung to the floor and the hood draped his head. He held a staff. Some might say this man was a bit different. He stared. It was as though he did not like what he saw in us or did not like the joy he saw. I don’t know what he was thinking and why he felt the need to stare but he was STARING! We all felt strange at this interaction with a man we had never seen or had a conversation with.

My natural response, turn my back and pray it goes away, or as I like to call it my “Change the Channel” moment. If we could just switch the channel to a person staring at us with an outrageous smile and belly laughter, I’d be all for that show!

This is the moment that my perception and mindset changed. This is where I saw LOVE in full action. This is where I saw LOVE change the atmosphere. I saw LOVE win the battle that was felt but not seen.

My friend who noticed the man wearing the white hooded cloak decided to do the unthinkable. She smiled the biggest smile at him (her smile can be seen a thousand miles away) and she waved. Not the Queen’s wave, nothing polite, but the most obtrusive, vigorous, large wave a person could give. She waved at this man in a way as if she was waving to a long lost friend that was running to greet her. She waved at him as if she loved him. She smiled at him as though he had made her laugh countless times. The happiness that was coming from her towards this unseen force was visible. She held no agenda but she just was who she is, and that is the most loving, joy-filled, kind person who knows that everyone is worthy.

So what did the rest of us do? We waved and smiled at him! She was teaching us what to do.

Imagine what this man was witnessing from his side of the sidewalk. 4 people sitting in a window eating dinner responding to his glare with smiles and waving hands.

So what happened?

You wouldn’t believe it.

He let his staff slide down by his side, his face changed from anger to joy, he smiled and then he waved to us. He waved! He smiled!

Her love left her and made it’s way through the darkness, across the street and went right into his heart. It altered his state and he responded the only way one can respond to love and that was by giving it back to us. He embraced love and moved in love. He gave love back to us, by lowering his staff, smiling and waving at us. He might not have known what he was doing but he was doing it.

I learned a lot from the man that day and yes, my friend as well. I learned from him that everyone is worthy of love no matter what front they put on, what actions they move in, what thoughts they have. They need and want love. I saw in him that he was trying to release a strange wave of darkness but even he could not withstand the action of love. I learned from him that no matter what one wears they are worthy of love. We can all say, “everyone is worthy of love”, but that night I saw my friend actually act that out.

That day my friend showed me that we have the power within us to change an atmosphere. We do not have to accept the atmosphere we encounter that could be fearful, dark, bitter, angry, gossipy, poisonous, but we can look at the atmosphere straight in the face and release love, trust, faith, joy, encouragement, edification and life. We do this because we value the people that are caught in it and can’t see the way out of a surrounding that is trying to bring them down. We release love because that person is worth it.

The Man in San Francisco taught me that night that love marked him and love changed his agenda that night.

My friend taught me that we are never to succumb to darkness but that we can always respond in love to everything.

Love is power. Love is disarming. Love destroys the walls.

Love is God. God is love.

God changes atmospheres. Love changes atmospheres.

He lives in you; therefore, you can change atmospheres with Him.

The Man in San Francisco who had me at fear actually showed me not to fear.