The Power of a Hug

So I've been mulling this over for awhile....and I even wrote the idea for this blog a few weeks ago on a grocery list and I've had to hold onto that outdated grocery list ever since.  I finally have a nice quiet morning to sit online and I really want to throw out that piece of paper today, so here I am blogging.  I've shared with a few people the awkwardness of moving back to Canada and trying to figure out greetings again.  In Venezuela I'm used to greeting people with a quick kiss to the cheek....well, more of an "air kiss"....and if it's a friend, that's usually followed by a hug. Of course, coming back to Canada, there's no better way to alienate people than by going around kissing and hugging everyone.  Now I'm confused; do I hug? Shake hands? Do nothing?  When I was talking about this with a friend, they mentioned to me that they felt people don't even shake hands very much anymore.  And I think that might be true, I've had my fair share of awkward, limp, half-hearted handshakes in the the past 4 months. Have I already been in Canada for 4 months????

Two of my best hugging stories came to mind and I thought I'd share them.

A few years ago while I was living in Costa Rica and going to Spanish language school, I went downtown San Jose with a friend, John.  As we walked, we came across a group of people holding "free hug" signs.  Some people were walking a wide circle around the group to avoid a hug, but I just decided that I needed a hug that day and went for it.  I didn't know the guy who hugged me but it was still incredible how great I felt afterwards!  A hug between strangers is a hug in it's pure and simplest form; there is no baggage, no grudges, no history between the two people. And there was something about that hug that was just so awesome.  I think John refused to hug a stranger at first, but as I remember, on our way back, he took the plunge and enjoyed a wonderfully awkward hug too.

Earlier this month I went to Drayton Valley and got to hang out with some of my fave people in the world, the Haazens.  Tanneal and I went shopping one night (yes, in on the edge) and while we were in the grocery store (yes, the grocery on the edge) a little girl with Down Syndrome, probably around 6 or 7 years old gave us a cheery "Hi!!!!" and lunged towards Tanneal going in for a hug.  Her Dad quickly pulled her back and apologized but Tanneal in her awesomeness asked, "Would you like a hug?" while she put the shopping basket down and opened up her arms. While she was getting her hug, I found myself secretly hoping that this girl was feeling generous and I would get to enjoy one as well.  She didn't disappoint!  After the hug-fest, her dad just said "thank you" and we went on our way, smiling.

So, I don't have any big conclusion about these two simple hugs.  I'm sure you can draw your own.  But I will ask, why as adults have we become so stingy with our hugs?  Do you think we are losing the art of hugging?


Anonymous said…
It seems clear no one wants to tackle this one Kelly. I can't believe none of your many followers have the courage, the cure or perhaps the care to advise you! So here am I - the least knowledgeable, the most fearful and the least experienced in all the ways of greeting. Well... I guess I've been around a bit and lived among many different peoples from North America to Europe, to Australia, the Middle East, Middle America and Africa to mention a few.

Maralee McKee seems to give advice from a more cerebral perspective in "Manners for Great Greetings", but was worth reading. I think she reflects on this matter from the perspective of a select American audience. It would not resonate as well amongst large segments of the population either in the US or say Quebec not to mention many nations of the world. (I notice that her post has no comments either!)

So is it the handshake, the hug, the kiss or "the high five, fist bump, belly bump, wink or the 'live long and prosper' signage?" I can commiserate with you, But I would agree that a hug can be quite powerful (especially in Russia!) Done properly I believe the hug and/or kiss are humanly much more powerful for meaningful human greeting then that stoical handshake. I didn't grow up that way but hey... we can learn and change, eh?

In the end I think it is the 'touch', 'the contact' - whether verbal, visual or visceral. Just take your best guess and go for it!

Blessings, Don
(You will likely find me hiding behind a large plant, post or person in the foyer!)

Treat yourself to a good laugh with Taryn Parrish who is downright funny at:
Kelly said…
Thanks Don! I'll definitely check those posts out! I do always check for social cues as to what to do, but now living between two cultures, I guess I just need to remember that life is always going to be a bit awkward :) High five to you! haha!