Woo-hoo! It was a “two hug” day in the newspaper, so let’s celebrate!

I get a daily print paper, which I read while slugging back my morning cup of coffee. It is a relaxing ritual, only because I normally read just the comics and the advice column, avoiding the relentlessly depressing news on the front pages. Oh sure, the advice column can rattle me sometimes, but for the most part, both of these daily reads provide me with the perfect transition from sleep to semi-alertness that I need to start my day.

Today, after reading those two offerings, I ventured further on in the newspaper to the front pages. It was probably the brightly colored picture of a large soccer ball with people’s hands surrounding it that drew me in.

After learning that the picture was, as I suspected, a promotion for the upcoming World Cup Soccer Tournament, I flipped through the other pages of the front section, glancing through grim headlines until I got to the last few pages. On both sides of those pages were pictures of people hugging one another. Yes, it did have to do with news stories — pictures of random hugging people aren’t going to appear in a newspaper — but it lifted my spirits, making me come to full morning alertness. What an eye-opener.

Those two pictures, one of President Obama hugging a high school graduate, the other of an army doctor hugging one of his patients, cheered me, restoring my opinion that the world is still a pretty decent place and there is hope for us.

It was a simple event and maybe I’m making too much of it. I can almost feel the creeping embarrassment of some readers, wanting to tell me that I did make too much of it. But at the risk of having people jeer, I will say that what the world needs now is more hugs.

There’s a well-known meme, “Free Hugs” that got started when Juan Mann decided one day that he needed a hug. He made a sign offering “Free Hugs” and stood in a busy Sydney intersection until someone tapped on his shoulder and gave him the hug he needed. That hug made him feel that he was no longer alone in the world and convinced him that everyone needed a hug. More people gave him hugs, and he them. Now his “Free Hugs” campaign has become a worldwide social movement, proving that a single person’s positive actions can be huge.

I worked as a children’s librarian in a public library and as a children’s art teacher for many years. At those public places the administration taught us to be cautious about giving children hugs. We were taught to give “high-fives” instead, but after seeing the quizzical and disappointed looks the children gave me after storytime or when proudly showing me their pictures, I stopped paying attention to that directive. 

There is a science to hugs. A hug lowers blood pressure and gets a human body to release natural oxytocin from the brain. A “high five” just isn’t a good replacement. It doesn’t have the same effect that a good, solid joyful hug does, and the children knew it.

It’s a shame that the childhood instinct to ask for what we truly need gets lost along the way toward adulthood. If you don’t already know about the “Free Hugs” campaign, then Google it. If you do know about it, watch the videos again. I guarantee you will feel better. Then go out and give someone in your circle a hug, adding one more to the world.




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