Last weekend, the Washington DC yoga community was shocked when one of their own, a bright light and beloved yoga teacher, Michael Joel Hall was brutally beaten by a gang of teenagers as he and his boyfriend were walking home.
This ruthless act of hate and violence happened less than two months after Michael’s apartment and most of his belongings had already been destroyed in a fire.
With NO insurance to cover either tragedy – it seemed Michael had lost it all. But as it turns out, you can lose all you have – yet still have all you need. And bones may be broken, but the powerful spirit of human kindness cannot …
I first met Michael at a community yoga event, sponsored by Lululemon, uniting teachers and students from all across the city for an outdoor class near the Monument. His delightful energy was so contagious, it was easy for me to see why his classes were so popular.
Like his students, I fell as much in love with his optimism, compassion, and joyful nature as I did with the yoga he shared. I would not let our friendship be decided by fate but rather by design – my design. I just knew I needed someone like Michael in my life.
I talked to Michael just a few hours after his surgery and asked how he was feeling, his voice broke and I could feel the swell of emotion and gratitude behind his words.
“Blessed … I feel blessed.”
Blessed by friends like YOU – because when the DC yoga community and beyond learned that Michael, a fellow yogi deeply loved, was in critical need – there was no hesitation as we rallied in support.
Within hours of the heartbreaking news, a friend of Michael’s set up a donation fund and a posting on Facebook hoping a few local friends might contribute. But what started on a wish and a prayer quickly turned into in an avalanche of love no one could’ve ever predicted.
By the time he was in recovery, nearly every studio in DC as well as yoga communities in New York, Montana, and Puerto Rico were busy scheduling fundraising events to help cover his growing medical expenses. Not to mention, over 600* donors – many strangers who had never even met Michael – had already pledged their individual support as well.
Now here we are, less than a week later and that list keeps growing. Our yoga community knows no boundaries as caring individuals from across the country and as far away as New Zealand and Sweden continue to send their help and support.
And on Sunday, August 5th, thousands of students from the DC metro area are expected to turn out for an outdoor donation class of 108 sun salutations, once again sponsored by Lululemon, to benefit Michael and his boyfriend.
Our yoga is so much more than a bunch of sun salutations – it is a practice where each of us has the opportunity to become a part of something bigger than ourselves.
In fact, if Michael is blessed, then he’s not the only one, we all are … with each other. Because while they say it takes a village, now I know the truth – it actually takes a cOMmUNITY.
We love you Michael – both Michaels!
*since this was written, the number of individual donors has risen to over 1500 – and continues to grow.
and on a personal note, i have to express my own deep admiration, love, and serious awe of those who have worked tirelessly and passionately behind the scenes. my heart has grown two sizes thanks to these really special people:
mike graglia – whose beautiful wife is still waiting for her human machine to slow down and either eat dinner or sleep (she may be waiting a while) … shelby thompson – who began the fund and now sits at her desk at work all day, crying over all the heartfelt notes from friends and strangers she receives with donations … kevin waldorf-cruz and sandy fennel – our research team and ashley houghton – our media wizard … our team at lululemon, emma dinzebach & luke lukens and jonathan ewing for helping to market the heck out of this …naomi for updating classes remote from the beach … and ALL the studio owners and individual teachers, especially those who rallied the troops almost immediately: patty, deb, jasmine, & augusta
there are way more people i wish i could acknowledge … including all 1500+ donors, really! but i can’t … because since i’ve written this, mike has already sent me 5 more emails containing 8 more things to do, 2 more texts reminding me to read his email, and a FB message ….