Do you remember as a young child, the safety of an embrace from someone you loved and trusted? There is power in that physical act. It brings reassurance to the relationship. It is a sign of security and trust.
It appears that a hug is a nearly universal act. Primates and Humans, from the earliest age, hold on to their protectors and snuggle into their waiting arms. Throughout history, parents have cradled their children. For all time, children have needed the embrace of their parents. Research has proven that skin-to-skin contact provides a reassurance and warmth that we can achieve in no other way. But there are lots of reasons we hug.
We hug at times of high emotion: Sports teams hug when they’ve won a significant victory or if they’ve suffered a terrible loss. Military men and women, who are trained to power through the worst of experiences, turn to one another for support; their brothers and sisters in arms who share a bond unique to any other setting. The hug signifies unity. It represents understanding. It speaks of the bond that comes from hours of practice, years of training, a single moment of terror or exuberance.
We hug to signify trust and establish relationships: Presidents hug other world leaders to show solidarity and resolve. I hugged my daughter’s boyfriend to show we were on the same page…and to intimidate him just a bit. As we hugged, he started to let go but I held on. He was no dummy. He pulled me even tighter. As I tried to let go, he maintained his grasp. The moment was starting to become awkward and then he whispered in my ear, “That’s right. Just relax. Let it marinate.” Needless to say, his hug was much better than mine.
We hug during major moments in life: Mothers hug their newly married sons, fathers hold close their graduating daughters. We celebrate the birth of a child by hugging the mother and father…and especially the baby!
We hug to offer comfort in times of trouble. At hospital bedsides, in funeral home parlors, or at graveside services. I’ve seen estranged families unite at the casket, standing shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, as they say goodbye to their matriarch or patriarch. I’ve seen strong men fall into one another’s arms as they grieve the loss of a child or a wife who has gone too soon.
With a hug, we show our solidarity.
We hug when we comfort or need comfort: Mothers and Fathers returning home from service seek the embrace of their children, their spouses and parents before anything else.
Hugs are so well understood that they are captured in ancient art, modern sculpture, and even the funny pages.
Perhaps it is simplistic of me to even consider this here but I would offer that, now more than ever, we need hugs. We need to sidle up beside our brothers and our sisters, our friends and our neighbors, perhaps even perfect strangers, and draw them close. We need to rediscover unity through a trusting touch and a warm embrace. We need to know we are not alone. We need to be reassured that we are all in this life together.
It is elemental to who we are; extending our arms, reaching out to the human family, and drawing them close. And it needs to begin today…so bring it and let it marinate.