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October 22, 2019

Can I have a Hug?

On the weekend of October 12–13, 2019, Manatee County Technical College opened its doors to host the fifth Remote Area Medical Clinic (RAM). The mission of RAM is to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free, quality healthcare to those in need. They do this by delivering free dental, vision, and medical services to underserved and uninsured individuals. 

To make these clinics happen, it takes a planning committee focused on creating collective abundance. The abundance comes from the willingness of the dentists, doctors, and medical staff that donate their time and talents to serving the community. 

Support from community organizations like Walmart donated $51,000 this year, along with food products and human resources, including engaged managers and employees. 

Hundreds of community members volunteered to work on every aspect of the event, such as setting up the medical equipment, making bagged lunches, translating, and being present to assist as needed. 

Twenty-six community agencies engaged to connect their services to RAM attendees. This combination created a feeling of Collective Abundance, which became apparent when a man came up and asked, “Can I give you a Hug?”

If you know me, I tend to walk with purpose and be very focused. So as the man approached me, I was intent on getting back to the kitchen to reload my empty cart. This man, who looked a little lost, stepped out in front of my fast-moving pushcart and asked with a stern tone, “Can I give you a HUG?” 

Taken a little aback by his tone, I briefly paused to process the question then, a little hesitantly, gave him one of my signature Heather Hugs. As we embraced, the man began to sob, and it felt as if his body melted onto me. 

It was in this moment tears welled up in me. I was happy to be there to embrace him. We stood crying together until he gave an additional squeeze and removed one arm from around me. Still holding me close with his other arm, he began the story of his day. 

“Thank you for treating me like a person, a human. I drove into this parking lot and was welcomed and thanked for coming to the clinic. The person thanked ME when I should have been the one thanking them. The parking lot was getting full, and the driver of the car I parked next to immediately got out and introduced his family to mine. Imagine having to decide to load your family, including young children, into your car to head out and sleep in a parking lot in hopes of getting the medical care you are in such desperate need of receiving. We all made it through the night, and when the numbers were handed out, the same kindness was shown.” 

At this point, he began to sob again, and we stood together with his hand still on my arm. After a few moments, he regained his composure and went on to tell me about his desperate need for medical care and how difficult it was to take time off work to get to a doctor. 

This clinic was a blessing for him and his family. They were overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was. I happened to be one of the first people that they saw at 6am. It was now just before noon, and he finally caught up with me. 

Many others were impacted in this way, too, and felt the overwhelming feeling of being cared for and seen. The Bradenton Herald did a wonderful job highlighting the connections and collective abundance of RAM 2019.

When the clinic opened, I was posted by the entrance door handing out books to the little ones who were restless. I was determined to make the connection between a book and a smile. For some children, it took hours, but by the time they got to the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading‘s booth where we had Engagement Team members and volunteers ready to read and give away books, the connection was easy. 

Collective abundance at RAM 2019 impacted not only attendees’ health but also their hearts.

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