COEUR d'ALENE - Surrounding the Human Rights Education Institute in a half-circle, several dozen people gathered to celebrate the city of Coeur d'Alene's first "Choose Love Over Fear Day" Wednesday.
The festivities were aligned with the 10th annual Global Love Day.
Event organizer Jackie Gedeik read a proclamation from Mayor Sandi Bloem to the crowd.
"This is the first Choose Love Over Fear Day in Coeur d'Alene," said Gedeik. "And at this very moment we are literally connected with thousands of people all around the world who are celebrating this day as we are in our own loving way."
The day was inspired by Harold W. Becker, an American speaker, author and president of the nonprofit, The Love Foundation.
"That's where Kathleen Lamanna and I got the idea back in January," Gedeik said. "We thought this is a community where we need more love and less fear, so we came up with this Choose Love Over Fear Day. This day is a platform to get together, to be open, to love, and to put love into action. And the form love takes is less important than its intention."
Gedeik asked how citizens can make that difference in themselves and others. Of course, she had the answer.
"We can give someone the precious gift of time," she said. "We can buy a lottery ticket for a complete stranger. We can put some coins in someone else's parking meter. Sincerely compliment at least five people today, including a stranger. Leave an encouraging note on someone's car window, or your child's lunchbox, or your husband's briefcase."
Later Wednesday, students from North Idaho College, in recognition of Choose Love Over Fear Day, offered random people hugs downtown Coeur d'Alene.
Tony Stewart, secretary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, also spoke at the event.
"After hosting 1,800 PBS TV shows, and a teaching career of over 39 years, and the honor of presenting lectures across the U.S., I have come to the harsh realization that humanity has great difficulty in fully comprehending what is the true meaning of love," said Stewart. "Fear has found a fertile field in which to flourish, unfortunately."
Stewart attributed great citizens of the world, like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, with "showing us a path to unconditional love."
"Not long before her death," said Stewart, "Mother Teresa was asked a very important question: What is the greatest problem that the human race faces? And she identified that as loneliness. That's the greatest problem that she has seen throughout the world. I would suggest the fact emerges from a shortage of love."
Stewart concluded: "It is not loving to remain silent in the face of hateful or degrading actions against anyone based on their race, nationality, color, origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. True love for humanity does not allow for prejudice, for bigotry, or for discrimination directed toward God's children. It is about action. And true love demands actions of love."
Sean Moller, 21, Coeur d'Alene, happened to be walking by the Human Rights Education Institute at the time of the event.
"I saw the banner and just started listening," Moller said. "It's nice to see the community is moving forward with the thought of love. It's reassuring that there's a piece of humanity that has hope left, too."
Karen Mello of Coeur d'Alene planned on attending the event as soon as she found out about it.
"I felt relieved that something's happening in Cd'A like this," she said. "It's like with the whole thing that happened in Boston, we can focus on the two people who did the terrible stuff or we can focus on all of those people who were helping each other."
Mello thinks Choose Love Over Fear Day will prompt community members to do more good.
"Isn't this amazing?" asked Mello. "I hope it's going to be a yearly event. We got too much prejudice and separation. I'm happy and I brought six of my friends, so I am like yes!"
Organizer Kathleen Lamanna believes Coeur d'Alene is a testament to standing up against inequality and discrimination.
"So many people here dug very, very deep through the years and stood for what is right and good and powerful as an incredible example not only to the state but to the world."