Heartfelt image shows hope in Charleston after tragedy

Jun 24, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Image: John Nettles/Facebook

No matter how much hate there is in the world, love can still conquer all. Random acts of kindness certainly go a long way — becoming the light people need in a time of darkness.

As the nation continues to process the horrific events that took place on June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, many are still searching for answers. How could Dylann Roof do such an unthinkable act? Why do people believe racism is dead? Will South Carolina finally remove the Confederate flag that continues to fly above the State House?

With so much hurt and anger swirling around the Charleston church shooting, it's great to see something positive that might inspire hearts to turn to love and forgiveness.

John Nettles captured a beautiful photo of his 3-year-old son, Parker, hugging a fellow resident on the street.

"This picture was hard to take and hard to edit... because Parker doesn't understand how powerful that hug is," Nettles wrote on his Facebook page. "He doesn't understand that he's hugging a black woman and that he's a white boy. He doesn't understand that just last week there was another white boy who decided to murder several black people — just because they're black. To him, it's just a hug with another person. It's probably the most beautiful hug I've ever witnessed."

John told the Huffington Post he and his son were on their way to "Charleston United," a local, churchwide event that focused on prayer, worship and remembering the victims of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting. Nettles and his family encountered Taylor Willis and her friend Beth Willis while making their way to the church. The duo held signs that read "Free hugs" for any passerby who needed affection. Wanting to reiterate sentiments of love, John asked to take a photo of the two friends, but had no clue his son would rush to give them a hug.

"He really does have a gentle heart and, at least for now, love and kindness seem to come naturally to him," said John.

Nettles' Facebook post has gone viral and continues to encourage viewers to embrace love. "The world expects violence, riots, bitterness and more hate, but we are doing a wonderful job of showing how love wins," notes John. "I'm so glad Charleston is responding this way because it's showing my son and every other child that love conquers hate and in return we're securing a better tomorrow through our strength today."


John continues to document the peaceful events occurring around the Charleston area.

It's wonderful to see a community come together in a time of tragedy. This horrific event that claimed nine lives could've easily turned residents against each other — creating more racial tension and division. Rather than put so much focus on the shooter, let's continue to shine more light on these uplifting stories.


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