“. . . now i know i don’t have to be perfect.”

Leighton and Little Girl

Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re a materialistic lot.  We love our things.  Sometimes we even covet them. But not just any things – big things, beautiful things, fast things, things that shine and sparkle in the sun, things that are all the rage, cute things, unique things, things that make us look and feel special, one-of-a-kind things.  And we know that others like things too.  It’s one of the reasons we feel so much pressure (and the anxiety that inevitably comes with it) to find the “perfect” gift when traditional gift-giving events roll around (e.g., birthdays, bridal and baby showers, anniversaries, weddings, Christmas, Bar (and Bat) Mitzvahs, graduation, etc.), that and our desire to be “recognized” not only by the gift’s recipient, but by the other gift-givers in the room for our shopping prowess, exceptional taste, cleverness and creativity. But, every now and then, someone comes along who honestly, transparently, lovingly and unselfishly reminds us that the greatest gift we can give others – the “perfect” gift – is the gift of our imperfect self.  The trouble is, more often than not, these givers of the heart go unrecognized. They disdain the spotlight – save for the platform it affords to share their message of strength through vulnerability, acceptance and hope – laudably preferring instead to credit others (and their Creator) for instilling in them the character, commitment and courage required to first find and, ultimately, give that gift.  Leighton Jordan is one of these extraordinary individuals and, today, I want to honor her and, in doing so, express my eternal gratitude. Because the truth is: I would gladly have traded every gift I ever received as a child (or as an adult for that matter!) for the gift of knowing I didn’t have to be perfect.

June 13, 2013

Leighton Jordan

How Big Is Your Brave

brave (brāv) adj. 1. Possessing or displaying courage; valiant.

Several weeks ago, my now 27 year-old son called from his home in Manhattan, Kansas early one Saturday morning “just to say hi.” As is his custom, Greg began the conversation by simply asking “what I was up to.” “Nothing really,” I replied, somewhat matter-of-factly, “I was just finishing up a tweet to Miss Georgia.” I’m not sure which (or what combination) of those 12 words sucked the air out of Greg’s lungs, but it was clear they did from the stunned silence on the other end of the phone! Maybe it was: the idea of his technologically-challenged, 54 year-old dad having a Twitter account, the fact that I actually knew what to do with it or the thought of me actually using it to “tweet” with Miss Georgia. Truth is: If you had told me a year ago that, by the summer of 2013, I would be on Twitter, have two Facebook pages and be 220+ posts into a blog, I likely would have reacted the same way – as if you had a third eye in the middle of your forehead. You see, I always harbored a fair amount of skepticism when it came to all things “social media” and, believe me, it has its shortcomings. But, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that it also has its advantages, not the least of which is that, on occasion, it offers a “front row seat” to extraordinary acts of personal bravery.

Such was the case that Saturday, when, shortly after my morning walk, I logged on to my Twitter account and saw a tweet that Kirsten Haglund (http://tinyurl.com/oovhuhh) had sent a few days earlier thanking the reigning Miss Georgia, Leighton Jordan, a stranger to me at the time, “for speaking the truth with grace and dignity” about her struggles with anorexia and bulimia. I quickly accessed the link Kristen provided to WSBTV2, the Atlanta T.V. station that “broke” the story and was moved not only by Leighton’s poise and candor in sharing her “secret,” but by her willingness to be so transparent on such a deeply personal issue. I also was struck by two statements that the reporter uttered – almost in the same breath: “the National Eating Disorder Association estimates that 1 million people a year die from eating disorders, more than breast cancer” and “Jordan is very aware of the negative stigma that can be attached to eating disorders and she expects backlash for sharing her secret.” Imagine laying your soul bare for all the world to see for purely altruistic reasons (i.e., to shed light on a burgeoning, life-threatening epidemic that is now reaching into our elementary schools) only to then live in fear of how others might react to your honesty.

Fortunately (for all of us), Leighton didn’t allow that fear to overcome her desire to “live out loud” (http://tinyurl.com/bebnzwa) and, having since spent some time learning more about her (http://www.missga2012.blogspot.com) – something I would encourage you to do if you can find a spare moment – I’ve begun to understand why.  Among other things, Leighton is a young woman grounded in faith. Perhaps because of that faith and her life experiences (which include: her being forced to “let go” of her dream of one day becoming a professional ballerina after a series of major surgeries on both ankles; watching an older sibling struggle with his own health issues (e.g., deafness, cerebral palsy and epilepsy); and seeing the fallout caused by others’ insensitivity and ignorance towards him), Leighton came to understand, at a very young age, what too many of us tend to lose sight of too often, namely that, contrary to popular belief, this Life thing is not all about the “me” – it’s about the “us” and, more specifically, our willingness to give of ourselves to others.  How do I know Leighton “gets it”?  Her selfless and courageous decision to “come out” about her eating disorder is a fairly compelling indicator, as is her dedication to the Sibling Support Project (http://siblingsupport.org).

Leighton recently took the time to reflect on her year as Miss Georgia, a reign that will be coming to an end in a matter of days.  In recounting the “Most Memorable Thing Someone Said To Her,” Leighton recalled a little girl who came up to her after she’d opened up about battling eating disorders. “I’ve watched you all day [Ms. Jordan],” the little girl began, “and thought I could never be Miss Georgia because I’m not perfect. But now, knowing you aren’t perfect, I know I don’t have to be perfect to inspire others like you have inspired me.” Leighton would go on to say, “that moment changed my life.”  Of course, that moment would not have been possible, either for that little girl (and likely thousands of others like her) or for Leighton without Leighton’s profound act of bravery.  I don’t think people fully appreciate how much courage it takes to be vulnerable even in a one-on-one relationship, let alone as a “public figure” for all the world to see.  I have Twitter to thank for meeting this remarkable young woman – and so it seemed only fitting that I use that same medium to thank her, which I did that Saturday morning: “You rock @Leightonjordan! Your courage and ‘voice’ will change lives. Great admiration and eternal gratitude.”

Today, I hope you will be inspired to thank her as well!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUQsqBqxoR4

The World Needs “Knowing” Hearts

Headshot_Jan2012

“I’d like to tell you about a guy I know, a friend of mine. His name is Brian Piccolo. And he has the heart of a giant, and that rare form of courage that allows him to kid himself and his opponent – cancer. He has a mental attitude that makes me proud to have a friend who spells out the world ‘courage,’ 24 hours a day, every day of his life.  You flatter me by giving me this award. But I say to you here now Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who deserves to receive the George S. Halas Award. It’s mine tonight, but Brian Piccolo’s tomorrow.  I love Brian Piccolo and I’d like all of you to love him too. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”

Gale Sayers’ Acceptance Address for the George S. Halas Courage Award

At one time or another all of us likely have asked ourselves the question: “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to good people?”  Some ask it more than others.  I would be one of those people.  Sometimes the question crops up in the wake of the sudden and premature death of a celebrity or sports figure, who seemingly was at the height of their career and full of life.  Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, Brian Piccolo, Jim Valvano, Princess Diana and Steve Jobs are just a few examples in my lifetime that immediately come to mind.  Other times, the question is raised in the aftermath of the death of prominent politicians, activists, public figures and innocents whose lives have been cut short by senseless acts of violence and hatred.  John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., the children, teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary, the victims of 9/11 and of the recent Boston Marathon bombing, those gunned down at Columbine, the Washington Navy Yard and Fort Hood, etc. certainly would fall into that category.  But the question is by no means limited to deaths, nor is it restricted to those who happen to enjoy celebrity or other public figure status.  No, it’s one that either has or will touch all of our lives in very personal, mostly non-public ways.

Maybe the question will arise amidst the ruins of a failed marriage or other committed relationship.  Maybe it has or will have its roots in the suffering that we or a loved one, especially a parent, spouse or child have endured or are enduring in battling a chronic or life-threatening illness.  Maybe its source is having stood at the precipice of the realization of a lifelong dream only to have it suddenly cut short or interrupted, by an unexpected change in life circumstance.  Maybe our wondering stems from the loss of a job or a business that we dedicated our entire working life to when we least expect and can least afford the financial consequences that inevitably come with it.  Maybe for us it is a death, albeit of a very personal “celebrity” in our lives – a spouse, a parent, a child, a close friend or a mentor.  Maybe it is posed through our tears as we stand amid the rubble that once was our home, our life, wiped out in an instant by some form of natural disaster.  But, while the precipitating event is (or will be) different and unique to each of us, the question asked is always the same:  Why?  Why me?  Why my loved one? Why do “bad” things happen to good people?

The obvious answer, of course, though highly unsatisfactory, is that “bad” things happen to everyone – good and bad.  Like it or not, death and the myriad of other circumstances outlined above don’t discriminate based on the fundamental “goodness” of their recipients or their significance in our public or private lives.  On last Saturday’s walk, however, it occurred to me that, while we may not ever be able to fully understand the “why” of it, more often than not even the “darkest” of events ultimately give “birth” to a “knowing heart” that, in turn and in time, becomes a source of light and hope for the world.  Maybe that’s part of the why – the answer I’ve been searching for all these years.  Interestingly, it’s a concept that, without realizing it, I was close to stumbling upon in formulating the text for the back cover of my book when I wrote: “If we are willing to take a step back and reflect on the matters of the heart that invariably surround events [that challenge us to our core], they can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, of those we love [and, if we pay close enough attention, to what it means to be fully human].”  But now I see it much more clearly.

I have my dear friend, Alison Smela to thank for this critical realization – and so much more.  She has been in the darkest of dark places in her life, not once, but twice – first as the result of a lifelong struggle with alcoholism and concurrently in the death grip of anorexia.  Those familiar with the insidiousness and power of those two diseases will appreciate how much strength and courage it takes to meet them head-on and then resolve to place them firmly in the rearview mirror of your life.  You likely also would not begrudge Alison (and those who love her) a few: “Why is this happening to me/her of all of the people in the world?”  But, here’s the thing:  While I’m certain those thoughts crept into her mind a time or two (perhaps even two hundred!) my sense, as I’ve grown to know Alison through her writings is that the “why” didn’t stay there very long.  She “got it” long before I did.  Somehow she knew that “why?” is not the question any of us should be asking.  Instead, the questions we should be asking, particularly in the midst of our or our loved ones’ adversity, are: “What am I supposed to be learning here?” and “How can I share the light of that knowledge to bring hope and healing to someone else?”  One day, you’ll get a chance to know this remarkable woman by reading the book she’s writing.

For now, you’ll just have to take my word for it:  The world is a better place because of her knowing heart!

http://tinyurl.com/pzlvtcm

I’ve Always Had A Thing For Marathoners!

UM Graduation Photo

“At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I’d become too tough to kill.”  Unknown Marathoner

I’ve always admired marathoners – and my daughter is no exception.  Admittedly, hers wasn’t one contested on the streets of New York City (well, part of it was!) or in Boston’s Back Bay, but I can assure you, as one who spectated most of the forty-two thousand three hundred meters, it was every bit as grueling, every bit as challenging, every bit as dramatic, required every bit as much resiliency and courage – and, when all is finally said and done, I suspect will be every bit as satisfying and rewarding as the “real” thing.  Life is like that, especially for those who are challenged/called to experience it fully.  My only hope is that one day, Ashley will reflect on her “race” with the same perspective that many marathoners before her have reflected on their own: “You need to look back, not just at the people who are running behind you, but especially at those who didn’t run at all and never will; those who started training for the race, but didn’t carry through; those who got to the starting line, but never made it to the finish line; and those who once may have raced better than you, but now no longer run at all. You’re still here. You can take considerable pride in that. Look at all the people you’ve outlasted.” Joe Henderson.

May 16, 2012

Donna E. Shalala, Ph.D., President

University of Miami

Coral Gables, FL 33146

Re: Ashley Blackwell

Dear President Shalala,

Last Friday, our 24 year-old daughter, Ashley graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences with a Major in Psychology and a Minor in Film.  Like most parents, our hearts were filled with a sense of pride and joy.  However, as Ashley took those final few steps toward her diploma and your outstretched hand of congratulations, it occurred to me that my wife and I were the only two people among the thousands of students, professors, honorees, administrators and loved ones packed into the Bank United Center, who knew, let alone fully appreciated, the pain and heartache Ashley had to endure and the considerable, at times, life-threatening obstacles she had to overcome to achieve this important milestone in her young life.  I feel compelled to share that story with you today so that you will better understand the resiliency of spirit, perseverance, immeasurable courage and hard work it took for Ashley to disprove doctors who, on more than one occasion, cautioned us that she might not live to see her 21st birthday and almost certainly not graduate from college – and my desire to give back to the University in an effort to honor her.

 It would be a considerable understatement to say that Ashley’s college experience bore little resemblance to the joy-filled one that Lexi Heller, so enthusiastically and eloquently described in her Student Address, though she had every reason to believe it would when she began her freshman year as a Presidential Scholar at the University of Southern California in the fall of 2006.  Indeed, by all objective measures, Ashley seemed to have the world on a string. She was a National Merit Scholarship Finalist; an AP Scholar of Distinction, having earned 4’s and 5’s on several AP exams; an accomplished (four time All-State) choralist at Gulliver Preparatory School, who, with her choral mates in the Miami Children’s Chorus, had the privilege of performing all over the world and at Carnegie Hall; an aspiring actress, whose resume included parts in two motion pictures before the end of her senior year in high school; a prolific creative writer of plays, poetry and short stories; a competitive equestrian; and a co-founder, with several high school friends, of a local theater group, Rearview Mirror Productions, who wrote and performed their own original plays. 

 And then, before the ink had dried on her first semester “report card” at USC, Ashley was stricken with an unusually acute and virulent onset of anorexia nervosa, an insidious and powerful disease, which, by some estimates, afflicts nearly 15 million women in the United States and, disturbingly, has a nearly twenty percent (20%) mortality rate.  By the time my wife and I became aware of the severity of the situation Ashley was in the death grip of the disease and well on her way to starving herself to death.  She spent the next two months at the UCLA Medical Center, which, despite her best efforts to keep up with her studies, ultimately forced her to take a medical withdrawal from her spring classes.  The 2½ years that followed are a blur of hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, in and outpatient treatment programs, nasal feeding tubes, etc. Ashley returned to school – at NYU’s Tisch School of the Performing Arts – in the fall of 2008, where she relapsed and was required to spend nearly six (6) weeks at a residential in-patient facility in Florida.  Somewhat remarkably, though discharged just a few short weeks prior to her mid-term exams, Ashley still managed to earn a 3.3 GPA for the semester.

Ultimately (i.e., in the spring of 2010), Ashley enrolled at the University of Miami, so that she could be closer to the medical care she required and the support of family and friends, principally my wife and I.  Initially, things improved.  However, as is often the case with those suffering from an eating disorder, particularly one as severe as the one Ashley has battled, she took another step back very late in her first semester at UM (i.e., in April, 2010), which resulted in her again having to seek in-patient treatment for almost two (2) months.  Fortunately, through a considerable amount of hard work and the compassion and understanding of her professors, Ashley was able to complete her course work that semester (and in the semesters that followed) and, along the way, earn what, by any standards, let alone given the life circumstances she endured was a remarkable 3.5+ cumulative GPA.   I only wish there had been a way for her classmates and others who were part of last Friday’s graduation celebration to have known and, perhaps, in knowing been inspired by the magnitude of that accomplishment, which brings me to the second reason for this letter. 

 I’d like to make a recommendation that I hope will have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of students like Ashley and, as importantly, on the lives of the other members of future graduating classes – and their loved ones.  I believe the U should establish an award given to a member of each year’s graduating class who has overcome significant adversity in earning their degree and that it should make room in the Commencement Program for that individual to take the podium and share their story.  The recipient of the award could be selected by a panel of students, teachers and/or administrators from a list of “nominees” submitted by students, teachers and/or parents – submissions that include a brief summary of the nominee’s background and their “journey” to achieving their degree.  In my mind, such an award would be the academic equivalent of the “Comeback Player of the Year Award” that has become an integral and much anticipated part of the professional sports landscape.  In fact, if the U is inclined to adopt this idea, I would be more than happy to commit to reimbursing the cost of the plaque used to honor that student for the next five years, as a way of honoring my own daughter’s “comeback” and the compassion and understanding she received from countless professors and administrators and classmates at USC, NYU and the U along the way.

    I look forward to hearing from you and appreciate your consideration.

                                                                                        Warmest regards,

                                                                                        Donald A. Blackwell

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKkIt5uphdA

Kirsten Haglund Appreciation Day!

Kirsten

My experience has been that people who have overcome (or are well on their way to overcoming) significant adversity in their life (I won’t mention any names here: Alison, Ashley, Kirsten, Kristen, Leighton, etc.) seldom, if ever, give themselves the credit they have earned and so richly deserve. They’re just not the kind of folks who are inclined to “self-appreciate” (i.e., to give themselves a “hearty pat on the back” for mustering the courage, “sticktoitiveness” and patience required to first confront and, ultimately, conquer what most objective observers would consider to be  insurmountable obstacles).  But that shouldn’t stop the rest of us from doing it for them – from instigating periodic “flash mobs for their souls”!  And so, with that in mind, I thought I’d kick things off by designating today: “Kirsten Haglund Appreciation Day” – and, in doing so, provide an opportunity for all whose lives have been touched by this remarkable young woman to express their love, admiration and thanks (in as few or as many words as you choose) via Social Media.  Let’s do this!

http://tinyurl.com/oovhuhh

“Don’t Move Until You See It . . .”

searching_for_bobby_fischer

I strongly recommend that all young parents, particularly those blessed with sensitive-hearted children who demonstrate exceptional gifts at a very young age, watch the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer.”  In fact, I would encourage the entire family to watch it.  As its name implies, the movie is the story of a young chess prodigy, but it is as much about two contrasting ways of parenting him as it is about the object of the parenting.  In fairly stereotypic fashion, the young boy’s father is eager to hone his son’s unparalleled skills and immediately seeks out the finest instruction money can buy.  When his “suspicions” about his son’s abilities are confirmed by the masters, dad pushes his son into competition and troublingly the pressure to succeed – to make dad proud or at least to avoid disappointing him – begins to mount.  Winning is a foregone conclusion, but the price to be paid for it is equally predictable, particularly as the gentle spirit of the young boy begins to emerge.

Enter mom – actually, mom is always there (mostly in the background) providing an emotional backstop, working to preserve the essence of her son’s childhood, serving as a human buffer for her husband’s increasing demands on their son’s time and expectations of performance begin to spool out of control.  She is the voice of reason, the protector of the playful spirit that once defined her son’s pre-competition life and, when it matters most, she is intent on being her son’s voice and that it be heard.  The movie is about a quest to strike a balance – both from a parenting perspective and from the perspective of the young boy – a means that will allow both to fully explore the parameters of “the gift” without sacrificing everything that matters most in the process.  But it is about so much more than that.  It is a beautiful story of innocence, patience, perseverance, friendship, love and respect.  And it is filled with wisdom, some of which is passed on by a homeless man that the young boy befriends at a public chess board in a local park.

If you’re looking for a movie to rent on a rainy day or a lazy Sunday afternoon, a flick that the entire family can enjoy and benefit from, you’d be hard-pressed to find one much better than this – and I don’t even like chess!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tSMH4O8G8w

Did Anybody Hear Her?

Dallas Letter_DAB_BW

Today marks the first time I have started to write a post with tears streaming down my face, but there they are littering my office desk at 6:00 o’clock in the morning – and this time I know exactly why they’re there.  It’s never easy to think, let alone talk, about our shortcomings, our mistakes, our regrets, particularly when you’re intent on being honest with yourself about them, which I am, at last, this morning.  I suppose knowing that I’m a very different (more attentive and empathetic, less judgmental) person today and that, because I am, the events of 20+ years ago are unlikely to repeat themselves, makes this very public “confession” a little easier, but not much, because this regret involves a dear friend, who has long since passed away (too young), and a missed opportunity to be there when she needed me most.  Those regrets, in my mind, are the toughest ones to live with.

We first met as law clerks in the summer of my second year of law school.  At the time, both of us were vying for what likely would be fewer permanent positions than there were clerks, a fact that necessarily meant we were “competitors” on some level, but it never felt that way.  Instead, there was an almost immediate connection between us, a sense that we were meant to be friends and it didn’t take long for that friendship to take root, even though we were very different people.  She was a fun-loving, outgoing, free spirit and, yours truly, was ultra-conservative, introverted, idealistic, “most all parts business” and “very few parts fun”.  I suppose, in some respects, I was “curiously different” from the rest of our rather hard-partying clerkship class, which may have served, paradoxically, to fuel our friendship. I never asked her about that, though I often wish I would have.

By summer’s end, we had both earned a position with the firm and we returned from our respective law schools after graduation and were reunited as young associates the following Spring.  True to form, I took the first part of the summer “off” and went into “hiding” for months in a small guest house cramming for and “stressing” out about the Bar exam.  She, on the other hand, worked full time at the firm and may have put in an hour or two of study  in the evenings and on weekends.  She passed literally on the number.  I did a little better.  Through it all and for the next 6 ½ years our friendship grew.  Both of us began having children, which, in her case, meant juggling the demands of an increasingly active trial practice and motherhood.  Her first marriage fell apart (and her second one wasn’t doing much better).  And then one day, my wife and I decided to leave Miami and move to Dallas.

Several weeks later, she “conspired” with her new firm and biggest client to arrange a trip to Dallas.  She called a day or two before, making it sound as if she would simply be in town to take another of the hundreds of depositions she was taking all over the country by that time.  Her career had taken off. “I’m really busy,” I remember telling her, “scrambling to get acclimated to the demands of my new firm, life in a new city, etc., but I could probably squeeze in a dinner.” And so, even though l would only later learn that she needed much more from our friendship that trip than I was “prepared to realize” at the time, we met at a local restaurant for a few hours and talked – mostly, regrettably, only about the busyness of our lives.  And then, with our customary hug and a simple kiss, we were off – back to the treadmills that had become our lives.

The following morning, our receptionist told me that there was a letter waiting for me that a young woman had dropped off early that morning.  It read, in part, as follows:

Dear Don,

We must find a way to spend more than 2 hours together every 12 months.  Although I’m happy that I was able to see you yesterday, I really need more time alone with you to talk, to reflect on our “life choices” over the past few years – to project what our futures may have in store for us.  Somehow, I doubt that opportunity will arise.  I will be sure to return to Dallas when the next trial is set.  Maybe we can spend some time together then?  I would like that . . .

When I was at the old firm last week, I was seized with so much nostalgia that I knew I must see you immediately.  I can’t explain it, but during the deposition I was attending there, I felt that I had been taken back to 1982, to our crazy summer clerkship, to the beginning of our friendship.  That’s how real my sense of your spirit being there with me was.  Your spirit walks the halls of those offices.  I know, because I felt it.

Do you have any idea how deeply I value our friendship?  I think not.  You are so exacting – I won’t say judgmental, although I could – in your measure of how things should be, how true friends should behave, that I often feel utterly inadequate.  I am so very imperfect, but you must not doubt that from my place of imperfection, you hold a very special place in my heart and always will.  The fact that I may be terrible about exhibiting my emotions and concern for you does not detract from the depth of my feelings (as I feel them).  Just know that.

I’m feeling pulled in countless directions . . . by so many others and my often overwhelming sense of responsibility . . .  that I’ve lost my sense of “me” – and I’ve lost my time for friends.  I apologize for my neglect and I want to reconcile with you.  I will write and call you soon.  Please do me a favor and try and act a little less apathetic about things!  I won’t ask for a true emotional reaction when I call – you can fake it – okay?!?  In the meantime, my wisdom from being older is – go for it in Dallas.  You can always doubt your decisions later if you want to . . .

Love,

Me

. . . And doubt/regret them I still do, 25 years after our dinner, 9 years after her death.  Not the decision to move to Dallas, of course.  Rather, my “decision” to set aside so little time that evening, when a friend, a dear friend, desperately needed so much more – someone to pay attention, to set aside their “own stuff” for more than a few hours and be fully present, someone to listen, to provide comfort and reassurance, someone to care.  I had every opportunity to be that friend.  She flew half way across the country to provide me with that opportunity – and I just can’t for the life of me believe I missed it or seem to forgive myself for it.  But I have learned from it.  I promise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEhRucEVzH8

What’s In A Hug?

friends-hugging1

I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of lame hugs in my life, hugs that left me wondering what all the fuss was about where hugs are concerned, feeling empty – longing for something more. But, every now and then, I stumble on a “real” one – one with a purpose behind it and I can tell you this: The differences between the two are palpable – you can feel them in your soul.

So, on this morning’s walk, I tried to devise a litmus test for hugs, a checklist of sorts that would allow a “hugee” to know whether they are on the receiving end of a real hug or a knock-off, while simultaneously setting a standard that the “hugers” in the world can aspire to in honing their skills and plying their life-affirming craft.  To me, a “real” hug conveys

Warmth

Comfort

Acceptance

Support

Security

Refuge

Tenderness

Vulnerability

Compassion

Peace

Real hugs are the antioxidants of the soul.  They let us know that we’re not alone, that there is someone who believes in us, who will be there to share our hardships and our joys – whose arms are always open – willing to provide safe harbor in the storms.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7s06olsY-A