Wednesday, January 23, 2013


It's cold outside.

Nothing out of what used to be the ordinary, mind you: it's -13 right now, wind chill -22, and people in Winnipeg (-26/-38), not to mention Rankin Inlet (-30/-48) are laughing bitterly at me. But we haven't seen this kind of cold snap since 2009. I'm double-layered, with jeans over jogging pants and two sweaters, and I'm still a little nippy. I'm thinking I'll have a nap since I have to work at five in the morning tomorrow (forecasted windchill for my walk to work is -28, oh joy, oh bliss). Thoughts of flannels and cuddle-Tuxing (the Peach will burrow and give what warmth she can, too) bring on thoughts of other warm things.. Fireplaces. Disney World (18 right now, which is five degrees warmer than my living room). Hot tubs and saunas and the pea soup I had for lunch which is just starting to unstick itself from my insides. Hugs.

Hugs are nice warm things. Not those awful fake letter-A hugs, the ones social protocol forces you to give when you really don't want to, but number 1 hugs, the kind with real affection in them. I'm not talking sexual affection, either (though there's nothing wrong with that); just the kind of good-friend hug that you really don't see enough of any more. Like winters, number 1 hugs are on the decline.

Obviously part of the problem is our hypersexualized culture that elevates every least form of intimacy into something perverted. I honestly don't know whether I should weep or scream over the fact that a teacher, for example, can't hug a child any more, no matter how badly the child might need a hug. That goes at least triple if it's a male teacher (the child's gender doesn't matter in that case)...obviously a pedophile, right?

Such bullshit. I had several male teachers over my scholastic career, the first one in grade two. Mr. Allard stands out in my memory for two things: one, he brought a Commodore PET to school, introducing his class to computers at a time when they were barely a ripple; two, he was liberal with his hugs. The same could be said of Mr. Sackville, in grade five. Caring, compassionate hugs were there for the taking when you needed one, and nobody needs hugs quite like grade five kids, who think they're all grown up until something grown-up comes along and regresses them to toddlerhood.

Then, grade 13 and Uncle Rog.

The Rev. Roger McCombe (and here I can just imagine the howls of outrage--teacher and priest? Kiddy-diddler for sure!) was among the most profoundly decent men I've ever had the pleasure to know, and far and away the best teacher I had in a long line of good teachers. I wrote about the man here and I didn't even scratch the surface. He touched countless lives in countless positive ways. Among the many sayings of his that resonates all these years later:

The shortest distance between two people is a hug.

I've always been a hugger, and while I respect the boundaries of those of my friends who aren't, I can't help but feel they're missing out. For all my love of words, a hug transcends any word in any language. It offers commiseration and sympathy better than any utterance can. It gives strength. It absorbs pain and radiates precisely the required measure. You can draw nearly endlessly on a single hug for emotional sustenance, and a returned hug doesn't just add power, more like cubes it.

Hugs are free. They cost nothing. But every person hugged is enriched, and every hug enriches the hugger. So give your loved one, your friend, your sister, your Dad--give 'em all hugs, and watch your world become a brighter place.

Oh....and hug your enemy too. He won't know what hit him--no weapon you can wield will be half as effective.

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