Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Everyone Needs a Hug!

Some friends invited Bettie Jo and I to go the Missouri-Kansas Game last night at Mizzou Arena. I had not been to a game in the new arena. More than 15,000 people packed the arena to watch this episode of the Border War. Missouri had a very difficult first half shooting only 24 percent and turning the ball over frequently, but the second half was different story. Missouri kept trying to climb back into the game--edging closer and closer. A young man sitting in front of us was almost beside himself--jumping and cheering. He gave me a couple of "high fives" at keys moments. When Missouri scored the go-ahead basket with 1.3 seconds remaining and then held on to win, he went crazy (along with the rest of the crowd). He hugged me and everyone else he could reach. It was a great game (if you cheer for Mizzou).

The experience reminded me of a report I heard during the inauguration of President Obama. The news reporter talked about being in the crowd on the national mall during the inauguration. She said she had never worked a crowed where everyone was willing to be interviewed. She went on to say that each time she finished an interview the person hugged her.

Special moments sometimes cause us to form an immediate emotional bond with people. Several years ago I was leading a group on a trip to Israel with my brothers. My older brother and I were talking about how our family has always been "huggers." He suggested that I should hug the people in the church where I was serving as pastor. He said you should particularly hug your widow ladies. Everyone needs a hug.

I must admit I came home a little skeptical. Not because I disliked hugging (I grew up in a family of huggers). I was not sure how people would react. I remember asking some of widow ladies as they greeted me following our worship services if they would like a hug. You cannot imagine the overwhelming response I received. Their responses ranged from "Oh, yes" to "Please!" to "I would love to have a hug." One lady whispered to me as I hugged her, "I cannot remember the last time someone hugged me." Before long I was hugging almost everyone, including big, burley men. People would come up and say, "Can I have a hug, too?"

I hate to admit it, but my big brother was right. People (even shy and reserved people) long for a sense of connection. There is something about a hug that causes us to feel we are not alone. Christianity is about reaching out to people. It is about touching their lives and ministering to their needs. It is about inviting them into the family. I don't think we have to wait for special moments to reach out in love and compassion. Everyone needs a hug!

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