There was once a young man who had always found it difficult to relate to other people. He also would see others hugging each other and truly wanted to be able to feel good about hugging.

So he went to a bookstore in hopes of finding some books that would help him. He looked and looked and finally he found a book that surely would help him. It was titled, “How to Hug.” He bought the book.

He couldn’t wait to take it home and start reading, but what he found was he had bought volume nine of an encyclopedia from with entries “how” through “hug.” There are very few books about hugging, and that got me to thinking.

There is nothing greater in life than loving others and being loved in return. I believe that loving is the ultimate of experiences. Yet, as a society, we suffer from the inability to express our love with open and honest affection.

You know what? It takes so little to open our arms one to the other. That brings me to realize the simple importance of hugging.

Studies show that there is much more hugging in most other countries than in the United States. Why is that? I mean, hugging can lift depression, enhances the immune system. It can breathe fresh life into our body and give us more energy. And, most important, daily hugging in the home will strengthen relationships for the whole family. Children raised with lots of hugging are more likely to create huggers as adults.

So why do we have so many who don’t want to be touched? In Harold Lyon’s book, “On Tenderness,” he talks about how humans are like small animals without fur or sharp teeth to protect them. He says that what protects is not our viciousness but our humanity; our ability to love others comes from being loved and hugged as young children.

Studies have continued to show the need to be touched is innate in all warm-blooded animals, including humans. So why, in the study comparing Parisians to Americans, did it show that in one hours time the European friends touched each other one hundred times while Americans touched each other three or four times in an hour?

We learn affection from the tender model in our lives. From the moment of conception the infant is softly enveloped in the warm embrace of the womb. After the child is born, it is essential to continue the warmth and embrace. If all human touching is denied, that baby could die. At best, because humans still need the warm embrace of touching, they are forever unable to easily touch or be touched. It can change the way a human responds to being touched or hugged for a lifetime.

Then came Dr. Leo Buscaglia, professor, doctor, author, and a friend of mine. He taught Love 101 at the University of Southern California, and he was known as Dr. Hug. The reason for that: whenever he gave a lecture, afterwards he stood off the stage and gave out hugs to everyone who wanted one, men, women and children.

And in his classroom, his lessons were about the importance of physical closeness, and he hugged everyone in the class every day.

Leo found that the guys, after a highly successful feat, would jump wildly into each other’s arms, pat each other’s backside, even kiss each other.

But the minute the hug or kiss is about loving and kindness, taboos crop up. Maybe it’s about childhood without touching, or the belief that it is a sign of weakness, or even the idea that touching or being touched is only done after a catastrophe or if someone is hurting.

For a few years I had a pet store; one day this little boy named Dan came into the store. He said he loved animals and wondered if he could help me after school.

I really didn’t need a sixth grader around, but because I felt he was sincere, I agreed. The very next day he not only showed up but he gave me a big warm hug and then started cleaning and feeding.

I won’t talk about what a sweet relationship we had, but I will tell you that I got very accustomed to our daily hug. It gave me the energy to finish the workday. That is what hugs will do.

Personally, I love to hug. Even if I’m meeting someone new I just might reach out to hug rather than shake a hand. Mainly, in meeting someone for the first time, I want them to feel friendly, and a hug says that to me.

A hug is automatic if I see someone I know and care about. I want to connect, and I know how a hug can make one feel physically and emotionally better.

“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17.

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