Thursday, July 8, 2010

Consider Yourself Hugged

“Consider yourself hugged” my mom would say in the later years of her life, after her strokes.  Her speech had changed, slowed but improved in a way, her enunciation more intentional.  They used to teach elocution in finer schools, schools of the upper-crust, you know.  Mom was not upper crust.  She was just trying to get the words out after her right side gave up the ghost and she had to learn to learn everything over again, including speech.  So this particular word came out huggid. 

I don’t know where she got that phrase from, that “complimentary close” as we used to call it, that “yours truly” or “sincerely yours” that we were taught in school to put on the end of a properly composed letter.  I don’t remember her having said it before her stroke, but afterwards, her more rudimentary brain – or her heart - guided her to say it each and every time she said goodbye, without exception. 

The phrase meant more because she was a great hugger.  She was a foot shorter than us boys, so when she would hug us, her face would be on our chests.  She would just be able to get her arms around us, so she would grip one of her wrists in the other hand so she could get a good squeeeeeeeeze. 

Maybe that’s why some deeply human response rose in me when I watched this YouTube video, “Abbracci Gratis” – “Free Hugs”.  Please click HERE now and watch the video?  Please? 

And I’m asking you to comment below.  Tell me what your response was.  I want to continue this story tomorrow, to tell you who sent this link to me, to tell you when I first heard the song being played, to tell you what I saw.  But please do watch it, and please do comment.  If you’d rather e-mail me your response, that’s fine too. .  Come back tomorrow for Bobbie’s story, and that song in my son’s car when my brother had died. 

Please watch now?

Creative Commons License FreeLemonadeStand by John J. Daniels is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


  1. It's a nice thought, but sorry, but too "contrived" for me.

    Also now a days, people who are "pc" would NOT touch one another.

    I would like to hug the attractive girl in the movie, but inside I'm asking, "what does she want?"

  2. I understood why they folks did not hug in the beginning ... there are too many weirdos in the world and so we hold back. But when folks did respond, I was sitting all alone in front of my computer grinning from ear to ear - pure joy!
    I'm reminded of Saturdays when my church informally takes breakfast to homeless under an interstate bridge. There is a lot of hugging, mostly initiated by the church folk. And the homeless love when the church children climb on their laps or run up with a wide armed hug.

  3. I hate "forwards"! I can be hard hearted about sweet pictures .. but every so often I get one that pleads with me to look, my life will be more it promises. Well, maybe, I will. As I looked at the video, I loved the "offer." The offer to embrace, a momentary opening up of who we are, who we might be to one another... a way to heal the pain of loneliness, of despair, a way to celebrate our beauty, OUR GODLINESS! It made me think of those I love, of those I have lost. As it built.. and the hugs came freely and enthusiastically I cried! Not sad tears, but those tears that flow because too much beauty is filling my mind and it just spills out! The tears that come almost daily in prayer. Seeing this made me join the "forwarders".. Abbraci tutti! (I hope that means Hug all!) Bobbie

  4. David learned to play this on his guitar this winter --on so many levels it is a very special song.

    I am weeping, the girls are smiling. The hesitation to forward, to share, I imagine is much like the hesitation to share that "free hug" "why has this been offered is it safe to accept and do I have it in me to pass it along and open myself to whatever may come."

    Not only will I forward the video I will forward this brilliant post --thank you, as usual!!

  5. Cohen’s “Hallelujah” has been an immensely important song in my personal life for an eternity. I prefer the Jeff Buckley version. It sends me deep, deep, deep inside, each chord striking places cold turned warmer. Similar to what happens to me when I listen, again & again to Suite Bergamasque: 3. Clair de Lune; I transcend to a humble place of solace. Embracing my own sweet heart with the sounds. I often go deep into the woods for a hike & flip my iPod to one of these two songs. Often far away from the human element, it is a fantastically humbling experience. It has brought me to my knees. It has reminded me of beauty and grace and so much gratitude when the wiles of the day-to-day have weighted me down in cynicism, doubt, and the overwhelming sense that all the efforting that all sorts of folk are doing day in & day out fashion on so many levels, for so many causes, for so many reasons to 'better' and 'improve' and 'grow' does not move "mountains" like I idealize that it should.
    This morning, watching this version of the ‘free hugs’ project (I have seen a different Youtube take on the same theme), I found myself thoroughly enjoying (in comparison to the other version) the cinematic direction, color palette, and environmental as well as human ‘placement’ in this piece— in particular I love the use of this version of Hallelujah (I’ve not heard it before) … and the way the creative team edited their collection of clips together so well. In those spaces where the song wells your heart into a higher realm, the hugs become plentiful, more robust, and almost familial.
    I love the ‘heart’ of this sentiment. The risk the project took. The activism it represents. I love the sweet, uncertain hearts that took the time to stop, notice, and most often both receive & give back a hug to a complete stranger. I love that I’ve seen another version of this video, and maybe, just maybe (I have not gone to Youtube for the research) there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of grassroots versions of this, across the globe, across neighborhoods and continental divides. Across the space between here and there.
    It was disheartening to read the first reaction to today’s piece; because for me it represents an extremely jaded, cynical, lazy, sexist (possible) majority. The antithesis to a project like this. Stereotypical as my interpretation to that reaction may be, to my fragile heart layered with sentiment and the wont for inspiration, and the visceral reality of being physically moved (with goose bumps, yes, and tears, yes) from the beginning of the piece, all the way to its ending; it saddens me to think of the folk who won’t let themselves think beyond the walls of their dismissive “contrived” assumptions and just let the myriad messages fill their own hearts with a sort of open-source-love that everyone, and I mean everyone on the planet needs to take space for.
    Free Lemonade stand, thank you for the sweet-hearted story about your mom and for being the man that you are, to know that it was her heart (not just the rudimentary brain) which guided her to love in whatever way she was able; but; to L O V E. Thank you for sending this virtual 'hug' to all of your readers ! (Consider yourself hugged back!)

  6. I just “happened to be” reading this over breakfast:

    “The need for physical affection never ends. Local twins, put in separate cribs at birth, had “failure to thrive” symptoms at the hospital. When their doctors placed them in the same crib, they quieted down and gained weight. The older sibling put his arm around the younger one.” – Another Country by Mary Pipher, PhD.

    Abba fashioned us well with two arms to hug. Thank you thank you thank you, John and your dear mom!

  7. I'm the first commenter (above).

    I wonder if this has somethhing to do with "where you live." In Chicago there are MULTIPLE murders daily.

    That's one reason why I moved away in 1967 and now live a bit South of John in Grand Rapids, MI.

    John, WHY do you seem to act as though if you wouldn't hug a stranger on the street it's a crime?

    Obvioudly, the Chicago experience (and my parents training in the big city along with a LOT of personal Chicago experience) has left me MUCH less trusting that alot of you.

    My wife is even LESS trusting than I - and our families in Chicago.....if they wrote on this blog, it would be an entirely different experience than the kindness I read.

    They must travel from the city to the suburbs and back - with the "great unwashed" each day. It might change your mind - unless you savor the parfume of B.O.

    If you do not lock the doors of your house, (may people where I live do NOT) please leave me your address. (only kidding).


  8. Without defining the era or releasing the call letters, this actually happened at events set up by a St. Louis radio station:

    Over a period of time, the station did a lot of personal appearances, sending personalities to locations where they'd come in contact with listeners.

    The goal was to bring traffic to retail locations where their salespeople could turn the listeners into customers.

    Almost always, the listeners showed up for the free hotdogs and t-shirts and nothing more.

    One Monday, the station's Promotions Director was still mightily creeped out by a small group of listeners who had descended on her "show" the previous Saturday.

    "WARTS!" she yelled. "These people all had WARTS, all over their faces and arms, huge freakin' WARTS! They were...the Wart People!"

    It couldn't have been that bad, we reasoned with her, but she ranted on, saying she'd never do another remote. Things worked out, she returned to service and I eventually wound up in the remote talent rotation.

    Sure enough, they showed up at my first remote. A whole herd of them, God love 'em. Mother and Father and kids, all warted-out from head to toe. Not just a few warts, but Elephant Man sized warts. These were seriously disfigured people, but they were our fans and core listeners and they quoted us chapter and verse and whatcha gonna do about that?

    It was one of those I-can't-look-away things, like a highway disaster. I didn't want to seem put-offish, but I kept my polite distance and let someone else serve them hot dogs.

    We learned over the years how to accomodate their presence at remotes they always attended and how to gently keep them away from clients and other listeners but they always showed up and they never got rid of their warts. And they always got free hot dogs and t-shirts.

    But, wait: there's more!

    Some years later, during a reunion of the old guard at that station, I sat, with drink in hand, as our former Promotions Director told me the rest of the story.

    "I sat with them on a retaining wall at a car dealer once," she said.

    "I was closer to them than I had ever been," she said.

    "That was when I noticed they had crabs (body lice) crawling all over them!"

    Good God. Thanks for letting us know, now, ten years later.

    Lesson learned. Touch a listener, pay the price. I am SO glad that I had someone else hand the Wart People their hot dogs.

  9. Please see the July 11 posting, "Polite Distance" for a response to this comment, and the string above. Please leave further comments there.


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