After a speech a number of years ago, a manager came up to me and said she had a story to tell me about the healing power of hugs.
The manager, who was an administrator in health care, said that she had a long-term employee who began to come in late and even miss days of work. Being a good manager, she took note of this.
One day the manager saw the employee coming down the hallway. She said the employee seemed lost to the world — about ready to give up on life. Instinctively, the manager gave the woman a hug. The woman just stood there not knowing what to do or say. Every day after that the manager would give the woman a hug whenever she saw her.
After a couple of months the employee opened up and explained to the manager why she was so depressed. Her daughter had recently moved out of the home to attend college. Her son had moved out two years earlier and she was alone. And she said that it was the tenth anniversary of her husband’s death. She felt she had nothing left to live for.
For a while taking care of her patients kept her going. She knew her patients needed her so she would come to work. But she reached the point where her patients were not motivation enough. She decided to take her own life.
She came into work with the intention of gathering up her belongings and driving back home and taking her own life. That was the day the manager gave the woman her first hug. That hug saved her life and every hug after that helped to draw her out of a depression.
Hugging was not something I grew up doing. I was raised German Mennonite on a farm in central Illinois. As a family, we did not hug. My wife is of Mexican-American descent and she taught my family and me the importance of hugging. When I got into health care, nurses reinforced the importance of touch and hugging. So for the last 20 years of my parents’ lives I hugged them.
As writers and artists, we often work in isolation and yet we have this desire and need for human touch. We should surround ourselves with supportive friends with whom we can cry and who will give us a hug when we need it the most. Healthy friendships are a necessary part of the creative process.