By Mala Cunningham, Ph.D.

Tonight I was walking on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia to meet some friends. It was a beautiful night in Cville [that’s how locals refer to their beloved city!]—the weather was warm and soft. I was strolling along feeling unsettled and slightly anxious as I looked up and saw the signpost for 1st Street and it hit me that I had only three more short blocks to walk before I hit 4th Street—the scene of the murder and the scene of one of the terrorist attacks on Cville August 12, 2017.

I was feeling apprehensive, sad, and tearful. How would I react and how would I feel as I came to 4th Street? I didn’t know. My heart was heavy. I felt tense. I looked around at the people having dinner in the outdoor cafes, playing chess at Mudhouse Coffee, and walking their dogs—just normal people out on a beautiful summer evening. I wondered if they felt the same way I did? Things seemed out of sync on the Mall; as if our beautiful walking mall would never really be the same again—there just seemed to be a heaviness in the air, a trepid, lingering combination of energy that included sadness, shock, hate, disturbance, and upheaval. The peace and ease that once permeated our beautiful Downtown Mall had been placed in a blender, turned up on high, and the contents had been flung all over the walls in a violent and twisted manner. I continued walking as tears welled up in my eyes for the inhumane manner which humans treat each other.

All of a sudden out of the blue this teeny, tiny little whiff of an adorable, sweet 4 year-old little girl walked up to me and in a very tiny little voice said, “Here is a flower for you.” I stopped dead in my tracks and looked down and my heart melted into a million pieces of love.

I knelt down and said, “Wow, thank you so much. That is so kind of you to offer me a flower.”

She said in her tiny sweet voice, “You’re welcome.”

I said, “That is so special of you to offer me a flower. What is the occasion?”

This precious little bundle of love didn’t understand my question so she looked over at her mom (who was standing a few feet away) and her mom answered “Just to spread the LOVE.”

“OMG! Thank you!” I was so grateful to this beautiful mom and her beloved child who were standing on the Mall and handing out flowers to strangers.

I could finally take a deep breath again and this time the tears that sprang up in my eyes were for a different reason. These were the tears of a sad heart that had been broken open by a sweet little girl offering a flower, “Just to spread the love.” I held the flowers close to my heart as I stood up, deeply thanked them, and continued on my journey down the Mall. My spirit and heart had been lifted a bit and as I approached 4th Street I realized I wasn’t cringing as much. I took a deep breath and looked down the street. I saw a large memorial site filled with flowers and signs and lots of people lingering around in various states of sadness, tears, disbelief, and despair. I walked over to the site of the makeshift memorial that had been made over the weekend and with a prayer on my lips and deep love in my heart I placed the flowers that the little girl had given me on the place where Heather Heyer was murdered.

Yes, I was sad and in shock and disbelief, but I also had a special gift that was reactivated in my heart. I had hope that even though our world has tilted on its axis and chaos and hate flooded our city, I knew without a doubt that the resiliency and love within our community is far, far greater than any hate that tried to tear the fabric of our bonds and community apart. I had the gift of pure love; the innocence of a precious child; and the kindness of strangers—really, fellow Light Workers.

I knew there was hope for our future, a glimpse and a promise that a new sun will rise again. There are little girls (and boys) who will offer flowers to strangers in the name of love. I am so PROUD of you Charlottesville! We’ve been handed a huge challenge and the whole world is watching us. And we are standing tall, we are standing in love; we are letting the world know and see that we have a loving and dignified template for handling the hate and chaos. And sometimes this love template comes in the form of a precious little girl handing out flowers. Our tilted axis just righted itself a bit.


  Dr. Mala Cunningham is a Counseling Psychologist in private practice in Charlottesville, VA, and is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia Nursing School. Dr. Cunningham is the president of Positive Health Solutions and is the founder and director of Cardiac Medical Yoga. She is a senior disciple of Sri Swami Satchidananda and has been practicing and teaching Yoga for over thirty-five years. She is also a widely recognized authority in the field of Yoga Psychology and Medical Yoga and has been featured in numerous radio, print, and TV interviews.

Dr. Cunningham is also the author of two innovative books: Medical Yoga: A Gentle and Modified Practice of Yoga for Assistance in Healing and Cardiac Yoga.  She has also produced two popular CD’s entitled: Healing Journey and Before and After Surgery: Guided Imagery & Relaxation for Surgery Patients.

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