Un Abrazo Fuerte

 By way of explanation, the Spanish title for this post means “a strong hug”.  I just think that hug sounds more manly in that language.  

Appropriate touching is allowed here…

“I need a hug.” The Facebook post was terse and stark in its naked honesty.  Below the post, the lonesome girl’s “friends” had made various comments informing the young lady that they were “there for her” and reassuring her that she was cared for.  A couple of them even made cute little stick pictures with various symbols on their computer keyboards, intended I’m sure, to look like hugs.  It is possible that the young lady felt better after the exchange of remarks and fake hugs, but I did not–until I noticed a final reply, under all the other desultory entries. “I’ll be there in a minute.”  Help, at last, was really on the way.

There is nothing in the world that can replace a genuine, physical hug.  I don’t understand it.  The manly part of me wants it not to be true.  But, the act of putting your arms around someone else to greet, or console, or show affection, has no known substitute.  The touch of one human who cares about another is a powerful, and somehow mysterious, force.  Nothing really changes; the issues have not been faced and altered; not a single thing has been reversed, but suddenly the forces arrayed against us seem somehow less formidable. 

Human touch.  What is it about one person making physical contact with another that communicates so many things?  We touch the face of one who mourns, in sympathy.  Babies’ cheeks are squeezed by countless admirers.  Winners are slapped on the back. High fives and knuckle bumps suffice to celebrate a myriad of small successes.  And, of course, there is the ubiquitous handshake.  Friends greet each other with it; businessmen seal transactions; why, even opponents “shake hands and come out fighting”.  A universal sign of respect and honesty, the execution of the handshake varies from culture to culture; high art in the gang cultures, a mere slap on the hand in sporting events.  Some cultures tend to simply slide the hands together without squeezing, while such a handshake would be regarded in the rural areas of the United States as “fishlike” and as such, suspect from the get-go.  Regardless of the differences, the one thing that ties them all together, that makes the act significant, is the fact that one human physically touches another.   Respect, concern, joy, honesty…all are represented in the touch of one person to the other. 

Still, I’m realizing more and more, as I move past the years when I thought it embarrassing to be involved in one, that a hug is hard to beat.  I think it might be because there are so many people from whom I want and need hugs that are no longer around to give them.  Some are just separated from me by miles, others by a more permanent barrier.  Loved ones and friends who have passed on are no longer able to encourage, to commiserate, or to demonstrate love with an embrace.  There is an empty feeling inside me as I realize that my arms will never go around these people again on this side of heaven.  There is also some regret that I didn’t let down my guard more often to hug and be hugged when they were here. 

The older I get, the more my foolish masculine pride is left behind as I embrace old friends and family members.  Sure, sometimes to mask the beginnings of a hug, we reach out with the hand to be shaken first, before drawing the other one close to embrace while maintaining the grip on the hand.  I guess somehow, it give us a kind of plausible deniability. “Yeah.  We were just shaking hands.  No, it wasn’t a hug.  I just kinda put my arm on his shoulder too.”   No one believes it, but if it helps to get past the macho mindset that we’ve developed in this country, it’ll have to do.  I hope you won’t fall for the silly deniability argument, either.  It really is a hug.  And, that’s okay.

We need each other.  Our Creator made us to thrive in concord with other humans.  For some reason, He also designed us to function more efficiently when we have physical signals of affection, and respect, and support.

I kind of like that.  At least, I’m learning to.

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
(2 Corinthians 13:12)

“I will not play tug o’ war. I’d rather play hug o’ war. Where everyone hugs instead of tugs, Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug, Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins, and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.”
(Shel Silverstein~American poet~1930-1999)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved. 

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