It doesn’t matter if you were listening to the radio, watching TV or reading online or social media – the death of Phillip Hughes was a shock, and has resulted in a wave of grief across Australia and around the world. For many it’s a quiet tear in the car on the way home, or on the lounge watching the news. This week however, the sadness of many has been united by a simple gesture – one that was started by Sydney resident Paul Taylor – #PutOutYourBats
When Paul Taylor first heard that Phillip Hughes had been struck and injured by a ball at the SCG and had been rushed to hospital, he spoke with his mates, fellow cricketers, about how they’d been hit, struck, bashed about by the odd cricket ball over the years, but nothing ever this serious.
So when the news of his death came via a text message from a friend Paul checked the online news sites and his worst fears were confirmed.
This scenario is no different to many hundreds and thousands of people around the country. What Paul did next though would have a profound impact on the outpouring of grief around the world.
He walked through his lounge room, where his bat and cricket cap take pride of place, picked them up and placed them at the front door.
“At this point I walked around the lounge room. Overcome with sadness, knowing that there were a whole lot of cricketers feeling the same way. How do we convey our emotions? So I took a photo and placed it on Twitter with the hashtag. It was just a simple thing to say, this is a sad day, this is how I’m feeling” Paul told EFTM.
Later, Paul heard a story which had been shared on the 702 ABC Sydney Facebook page.
“I was waiting at a red light listening to news of Philip Hughes on the radio, wiping the tears from my eyes..Looked at the bloke in the ute next to me, he was doing the same. We nodded and quietly shared the grief of the nation.” a text in to Richard Glover this afternoon about the death of Phillip Hughes. – 702 ABC Sydney Facebook
— Paul D. Taylor (@Squizabilly) November 27, 2014
Paul’s simple response; walk outside, take a photo of his bat and cap, and share it on the 702 Facebook page and tweet it again to some other media outlets.
The rest is overwhelming.
Paul is at pains to remind everyone that “While I stand humbled before you all, our thoughts must not deviate from Phillip Hughes and Sean Abbott. They must be our focus at this time”
Not wanting to take any of the media or public attention away from the family, friends and teammates of Phillip Hughes, Paul’s response to media requests has been “This is a time for all cricketers near and far to remember Phillip Hughes, and the game we grew up with.”
“It was not until after it sank in and after many requests for interviews that I decided that perhaps I should speak out. But I did not want to take away focus from what is a terribly tragic accident – and so decided not to talk until after Phillip Hughes funeral”
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) November 28, 2014
A family man, living in Sydney’s northern suburbs, Paul’s simple gesture has been shared and participated in by everyday mums, dads, kids, as well as Australia’s highest profile cricketers, celebrities and staggeringly internationally too.
Sachin Tendulka, the Arsenal football club, you name them, they’ve joined Paul in sharing a photo with the #PutOutYourBats hashtag.
When asked if he could ever have imagined his simple gesture could have such a widespread response Paul told EFTM “At no point did I ever think that this would happen. I just took a photo in sadness and used a hashtag – much the same as many others have done on a daily basis. It wasn’t until bed time that I saw the numerous Facebook and Twitters alerts. I said to my partner, I think something is happening with what I did….“.
— sachin tendulkar (@sachin_rt) November 28, 2014
Over 179,000 tweets have been sent with the #PutOutYourBats hashtag in just 7 days, over 96,000 photos shared on Twitter and Instagram alone.
Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Arsenal FC, Sachin Tendulka and Mashable being the largest twitter accounts to join the support for Philip Hughes in this way.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 28, 2014
Paul hopes the Hughes family, Phillip’s mother Virginia, father Greg, brother Jason and sister Megan. “I hope this outpouring of support for the family gives them some comfort in knowing that the wider cricket community is there with them at this time.”
Likewise for Sean Abbott, “Many of the messages are not just sharing photos of their bat, but supporting Sean at what must be an impossibly difficult time. I know he has the right support around him, and I’m sure he knows we all support him too.”
But deep down, he is humbled by the experience. “I still cannot fathom that this has happened. This was just a hashtag and an expression of sadness”
What it did for others will last in Paul’s memory for a long time “That it has been the enabler for so many others to do something is very humbling. At first I was embarrassed at the attention, but now after it has sunk in, I am proud in a way. That in a time of sorrow, I did something that mattered”
We all know the horror stories of Social Media – they seem to typify it and stereotype it in so many ways, but as Paul says “…the realisation that this has shown people, especially children, that social media can also be a good thing I think is an important message – even though that was not my original intent. I’ve received messages from near and far; cricketers, friends, total strangers, and the media. I thank everyone who has kindly contacted me. It has all been a totally humbling experience – I cannot think what else to say”
Thinking about the huge amount of content that has been generated Paul’s mind has started to wonder about ideas of taking this outpouring of support and putting it to some greater good “I’d love to have some discussions with a publisher to have all of the images and comments captured, with all proceeds going to a youth cricketing program. There is a lot of good in the world, and I think that there is something special that can be done now. Because of the global reach of this, then perhaps this too will also have a global reach. I don’t know…they’re just ideas going around my head right now.”
Critically though Paul’s thoughts remain clear “right now though, our focus has to remain with the Hughes family, and that they get as much support as they can, and that Sean Abbott remains in our continued focus.”
What an amazing journey this simple idea has had. Well done Paul, and Rest in Peace Phillip.