On BBC Breakfast News this morning there was an item about the wellbeing benefits of the humble hug. Some psychologists had carried out some self-evident research, which indicated that actual physical contact in the form of a hug is sufficient and necessary in staving off depression and other emotional problems, enabling people to face the realities of life with a much more positive attitude.
I tried looking for the report in question, but failed to find it. I did, however, discover a great story and video about one man, Juan Mann (my guess, not his real name, nor a relative, sadly), who found himself needing a hug, and ended up starting an international movement. If you’re short of a hug today, then this feel-good video has to be the next best thing: http://www.freehugscampaign.org/index.php?categoryid=1
Mercifully, being married, having the most huggable daughter (who has just climbed on my knee as I write), and friends and family who hug a lot, means I get more than my fair share of human contact – though it’s not always been so. Indeed, watching this video reminded me of a moment when someone hugged me, breaking months without any meaningful human contact, and bringing me to tears through a combination of joy, relief and sorrow.
Unfortunately, my guess is, those who most need a hug in this world are those most unlikely to receive one. Those people in our society who are already lonely, isolated, disenfranchised, emotionally and psychologically disturbed. Perhaps we would do well to recognize that an important dimension of the good news, and a sign of the presence of God’s in-breaking kingdom, was Jesus doing that most [extra]ordinary human act: touching those who others wouldn’t touch, but who so desperately needed to be embraced in order to bring about their healing on so many levels.
Go on, follow Jesus and hug someone today.