Tis the Season

I wrote a letter to my cousin Grady the other day for Writing 101–an online course I’m taking that forces me to write each day. I like it! The topics are broad and easy to adapt to what flows naturally from my mind.  Some days I look forward to a little inspiration to help me refine my craft.

Many people “liked” my post that day and commented as well.  Lauren, one of my sweet co-workers even stopped by my office to tell me that she reads my posts every day and to ask “Who is Grady?” I explained to her that he is my cousin. We were raised as siblings, and he passed away 20 years ago. He was funny, smart, and artistic, but succumbed to a dreaded illness at the age of 30.

Lauren and I chatted a little longer about our families and the awesome God we serve. In parting, we hugged. She initiated it, and it was real — not the cursory kind that almost seems accidental. It was a real embrace from a kindred spirit who sensed a void and felt compelled to fill it with love. I needed that hug. I was teetering somewhere between survival and maintenance at that moment.

“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” ~Virginia Satir

When I made it home later that evening, I walked my Golden and read a few blogs before my husband came home with more hugs. What I learned is that several of my favorite bloggers had also written about loss that day. Though my loss was decades old, others were dealing with more recent, debilitating, crushing losses that made condolences and consolation seem out of reach and a far cry from their reality. Even though my heart still bears scars, it has mended–thanks in part to lots of hugs and daily reminders that God is with us always.

As I prepare to spend time with family this holiday season, I realize that this Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah won’t be joyous for everyone. Tis the season for loneliness and sadness — not just thankfulness and joy. For some, the holidays are a reminder of those who have left this life for an eternal one.  That alone should bring us joy, but often times, our hearts can’t handle feeling joy without pain. Each year during the month of November, I see lots of Facebook posts about 30-Day Thankfulness Challenges. There’s even a video out now that went viral because it tugs at your heart strings. It amplifies the feeling of warm fuzzies associated with the Pay It Forward Challenge. I say do it every day–not just certain times of the year. Live each moment of your day so that you intentionally breathe life into others with your sincere words, smiles, and those void-filling hugs.

So today I’m issuing a year-long challenge to everyone who reads this. Don’t allow anyone you know to teeter between survival and maintenance ever again.  Help them to grow. That equates to 12 hugs a day. It may be uncomfortable at first (especially if you’re not a hugger), but once you start, you won’t be able to stop. Remember, you’re promoting your own growth as well as that of others when you take the time to share a hug.

Let that be the epidemic that’s trending on Twitter and making national news. If Wolf Blitzer starts the top of the hour by talking about the importance of hugging on The Situation Room, then I’ll know that my work here is done.