A simple story that begins with a not-so-huggy childhood and a lifetime of half-hearted side hugs that suited me just fine, thank-you. Except there was just one problem. I’d made a small goal to one day become multilingual in the languages of love. You know the original five: Words of Affirmation. Quality Time. Acts of Service. Gift Giving. Physical Touch. I had no problem snuggling my kids and husband, but for everyday folk, arms length please. Besides, they likely wanted respect for their space bubble as much as I wanted mine.
One warm afternoon I left alone for the fabric store and arrived at the more private side entrance to the parking lot. An elderly lady in pale blue slacks and a thin sweater crossed the entrance in front of me with a labored gait. Just as she made it across, she somehow tripped and fell flat on her face. Shocked, I threw open the door of my car and rushed to her side crouching down to give her comfort. Embarrassed but in need of assistance, she allowed me to help her to her feet and steady her shoulders with my arm.
In that moment I had the strong impression that she needed a real hug bursting with genuine love and compassion and so I did it. I wrapped both of my arms around her as if she was my own mother, and I pressed her to me for several seconds saying nothing as she sobbed, love spilling out of me like shafts of light into her heart and back again into mine.
As I held her, a stranger, there on the sidewalk, and she held me, I discerned with clarity her feelings of deep inadequacy and shame. The words just came.
You are not your fall my dear friend, I said. You are not your fall. You are a strong, courageous, beautiful woman and you are going to be okay. You are not your fall and I love you.
I hugged her to me one last time and felt her strength rise to her shoulders and then she let go. She looked at my face and I looked at hers and then she walked away.
I don’t know what happened to her, but our sidewalk hug changed me. Not only do I give genuine and happy hugs to people who need them, I am more open to speaking other love languages on-the-spot.