I am a hugger. I love to give, as well as receive, hugs. I have always been an affectionate person, and I think that giving a person a hug is a great way to express one’s fondness for them. I have always hugged my kids, and one of my favorite things to do when they were babies and toddlers was to rock them until they fell asleep, then sit in the recliner with them snuggled up against me, listening to the sound of their breathing as they slept. Those moments were some of the most tranquil of my life.
I love to give hugs to my friends, both male and female, even if I have seen them just the day before. Granted, some of the hugs are closer than others; some are “side hugs”, while others are straight on hugs, depending upon how well I know the individual. I even extend my hugs into my professional life. I have gone to many luncheons where I go around “collecting hugs” as I call it, from all that I know. Once, I went to the place of business of a personal friend of mine whom I had not known that long. As she greeted me at the door to her building & was preparing to escort me to the person with whom she had arranged a meeting for me, I reached out to give her a hug, just as I would had we met for coffee. She recoiled as if I were a snake or something. “PLEASE,” she exclaimed, “My bosses’ office is right there!” Now to me, that would have made no difference whatsoever, as I have even given my boss a rare side hug when I have not seen him in awhile. However, my friend apparently thought that hugging in public was less than professional. I was not offended in the slightest, but did feel a twinge of pity for her, thinking about how much she was missing out on. Yet I do realize that not everyone is “touchy-feely” like me.
I have even hugged the odd occasional stranger. Yes, I have indeed hugged total strangers – people that I had just met that were in pain, sad, or lonely. While these are among the most awkward hugs, they can be the most rewarding. Not too long ago I had to book an appointment with a new hairdresser at my salon, because my own hairdresser was unavailable. This young lady was pretty much an emotional mess on that day. She still holds the title of being the only hairdresser in all of these years that I have ever asked to re-do my hair. I simply could not go out in public with my hair looking the way it did after she half-heartedly & haphazardly styled it. At first I was a bit irritated by her distractedness, but as I sat there observing her in the mirror as she worked on my hair, I noticed the deep, deep sadness reflected from her eyes, and I began to talk to her. It turned out that she was in the middle of a messy divorce which involved a custody battle with her child. Having just endured a rather messy divorce myself, I could of course empathize with her, and used my remaining time in her chair to minister to her. After she had re-done my hair for the third time, I decided it was not going to look any better, and rose from the chair to go to my business appointment. Something made me hesitate and offer a hug to this girl I barely knew. The way she clung to me and sobbed is still etched into my mind, & it was definitely worth the delay I had to experience while she fumbled with her attempts to style my hair.
I have, upon occasion, even hugged people who have come into my home to perform service & repairs. One that stands out in my mind is the slight little man that came to extract the sock that was clogging one of the inlets of my central vacuum system. (Lest one of my kids think I am trying to blame that misadventure on them, let me clarify that I am the one that sucked the sock up into the vacuum! Who knew that there would be a sock behind the headboard of the bed?) Anyway, this gentleman had both installed the vacuum system & repaired it previously. I noticed that he did not appear to be his usual cheerful self, so I asked him about this. I found out that he was about to close down his central vac repair business due to the country’s economic crisis having an adverse effect on his business. Since this was his part time job on his off-duty hours from being a fireman, he said that he could no longer afford the insurance & licensing. He told me, with sorrow in his eyes, that I had been his very first customer when he had started the business eight years earlier, and that now I was his very last customer. I took this man’s hands, right there in my kitchen, & prayed for him. Afterwards, I reached out and gave him a hug. I shall always recall the look of surprised gratitude that an upper middle class white woman would stop and pray with an African-American male who was there to service her vacuum system. To me, he was just another hurting human being in need of the human touch.
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to remain upset or angry with someone when they are hugging you? I have some times found that, when I really want to apologize or make amends with someone, that a hug is a good place to start. If they are not receptive to that, then a hug is a good way to end the conversation! Come up and hug me, and I will most assuredly be much more open to what you have to say.
Recently, I have learned to give virtual ((HUGS)) via social media and texts to people who need them. It is a ministry of mine to pray for my Facebook friends. I take the privilege of lifting them up in prayer seriously. I know I always feel my spirits lift a little whenever I am the recipient of one of these virtual ((HUGS)). However, they are just not the same as the real thing.
Last week I met a business associate for lunch. She got to the restaurant before me, and was already seated at a table as I entered the establishment. As I started toward the table where she was seated, I spied a lady who is the mother of one of my former in-laws. While we had shared many a Thanksgiving dinner together when I was married to my ex-husband, I had not laid eyes on her in over two years, which is when I first filed for a divorce. I thought that speaking to her might be a bit awkward. Still, I had loved this woman, and I also knew that she had been fighting cancer. I sat my purse down beside my chair, and offering an apology to my dining companion, whom I had know only via phone and email up until that moment, went over to this woman’s table. After the exchange of token pleasantries, I said to her, “I hate to rush off, but I am here on business. I just really wanted to say hello, and come give you a hug.” She unsteadily rose from her seat and gave me a hug, and with tears in her eyes, she thanked me for it, telling me, “Thank you so much! My doctor tells me I need twelve hugs every single day.” I looked at her, fully aware that she was retired and lived alone, and wondered how on earth she can collect all of those hugs each day? “In that case,” I said, “Let me give you another one!” She smiled broadly as I did so. After my meeting was over, I thought about the twelve hugs she said that she needed daily as I drove to my next appointment. That is an awful lot of hugs!
I am not a doctor, and I do not have my own prescription for a minimum number of daily hugs, but I do know that most people are starving for the human touch. Truthfully, that was always one of the things I liked best about going to Church – in a Church in the South you can easily collect ten or more hugs from the moment your feet hit the parking lot until the minute your rear end settles into the pew. If you do not get them, then there is always the greeting time or after the service for making up your deficit. If you go to Sunday School, you may be able to get your entire weeks’ quota of hugs right there on Sunday morning!
But in this day and age of high technology when many people work from home and never even go to an office, people are often very isolated as they go about their days. Rushing to and fro, there is not time to hug even their spouses or kids. I believe that the lack of enough affection in our daily lives increases the effects of stress. Which leads me to one of my favorite stress relievers: my bi-weekly pedicures!
Vincent is a tiny, middle-aged Vietnamese man who must most certainly buy his cotton polo style shirts in the boys’ department. He speaks very little English, but he is my favorite technician at my nail salon. This may seem odd for an extrovert like myself, but since I spend so much of my day talking to others and doing presentations, when I go to get my nails done, I just want to relax. I’ve gone to Vincent for a couple of years now, and his strong hands know just how to pull the stresses of the week from the knots in my legs and feet. Though he does not have a good grasp of my language, he has a great sense of humor, and likes to tease me when I ask him to make the water warmer by acting like he is not going to do so. But though he does not speak much English, he knows the non-verbal cues I send out, such as when I am feeling especially stressed. I went to see him a day after I saw the lady who needs twelve hugs per day to help her fight her cancer. I was very busy with work, and feeling guilty about taking time to have my toe nails done, so I was busy on my smart phone answering and sending emails when Vincent suddenly tilted my chair back. “You not gonna ‘RE-LAH’?” he asked. At that, I smiled, and handed him my phone to tuck down inside my purse. As he began to massage my legs, I closed my eyes and contemplated how that is my favorite part of the pedicure, and is the part that keeps me going back for more. I can paint my own nails. But I cannot massage my own feet. How sad that our society has come to a place where we are too busy for each other, and how that causes us to go outside our family units to places where we pay for the human touch!
Yes, I have hugged Vincent before. I did so when I slipped him a twenty dollar bill for a Christmas gift once. I did so the second time when I saw him distressed one day. Though I tried to understand his broken English, I could not quite make out what was bothering him. Therefore, I had no words of comfort to offer. But I did have a hug!
Today I think I received about five hugs, all in a business capacity. How I wish that my babies were still little, so I could get my hug quota from them! How I long for the days when my little two year old son would come stand at my feet, and looking up at me, implore, “Momma, I want to hold you!” Of course, that meant that he wanted me to pick him up, and I always did so. I think I liked the ensuing hug more than he did!!
I wonder how many hugs I am supposed to get each day? I’ve read the articles which explain that they release oxytocin, and that is why we like them so much. Some say that healthy individuals need four hugs each day; others say five; and some say ten! Regardless of whom you believe, I think it is impossible to have too many!!
So here, reader, is the challenge: see just how many hugs you can dispense today, knowing that each hug will not only make the recipient feel better, but will go toward your daily requirement as well. You just never know – you may be hugging someone whose doctor has ordered them to get twelve per day, and if so, that means you will be part of the medicine that they need to help them win their battle. Or, perhaps you may be giving someone their ONLY hug for the day, or even the week. ONE, TWO, THREE …TWELVE HUGS. READY, SET, GO …!