I’m a hugger.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that even if I meet you with a handshake, I will generally depart with a hug.
This is absolutely not an inherited trait. I come from a family of true British stiff-upper-lippers (!) who generally frown on tears and find hugging far too intimate for comfort. My hugging is, in fact, an attribute that my family simply considers an amusing personal “quirk”, and no doubt blame much of it on my time in Canada!
I don’t know when or how I got into the habit of hugging, but I do clearly remember certain events in my life where PDA’s – everything from a simple hug, to seeing couples hold hands, became powerful symbols of love, comfort, and humanity.
In the late 80’s for example, I clearly remember watching Princess Diana one night on the TV news, defiantly holding the hands of Aids patients in an east London hospital when many still believed the disease could be contracted through casual contact. I was impressed by her dignity and conviction. But mostly I was impressed by the unspoken offer of love and strength given by simple touch.
This past summer, I found myself alone waiting for skin-graft surgery in Lionsgate Hospital. It was literally a “Hot August Night”, but I was scared and consumed with “what-if-thoughts” for the next few hours. A nurse came over and saw me trembling under my hospital gown. Despite the warmth of the evening, I was chilled. “Ah honey,” she said, “let me get you a blanket”. She came back moments later with a warmed blanket and tucked me in. She then took my hand and asked me about my day. We talked, well, she talked for a few minutes. She never once let go of my hand. I could feel her warmth gradually seep into my fingers, and I literally clung on for dear life.
When we are at our most vulnerable, a simple touch is an absolute sign of humanity.
Two days ago, on the Seabus coming home from work, an elderly couple got on and sat opposite me. Their knees were touching and they were holding hands. Every now and again, the woman would reach over and whisper something in her companion’s ear. He would smile and respond with a tighter grip.
I tried not to stare. But it was simply lovely to watch a couple so obviously still in love and enjoying each others company.
I’m writing this as current world and political events would lead us to believe that we are hurtling towards an unholy mess, that there is little good left in the world, and that decent humanity is a thing of the past.
I want to reassure everyone that we’re ok. Character is, in fact, defined not when times are good, but when they are bad. And as the wonderful former First Lady of the United States said, “when they go low, we go high”… Yes, ma’am!
Mantra for this year then is as follows: