How much for a Hug
If you were walking along the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles on a warm Saturday afternoon, you might come upon Mikey’s deli. Be warned, this is not your ordinary deli serving corned beef hash or hot dogs loaded with mustard and sauerkraut. Mikey’s deli only serves hugs. For the price of two heart-felt compliments, you can enjoy a hug.
Mikey created the deli as an interactive art installation to promote the benefits of hugs. We live in a culture plagued by fear and anxiety. The roller coaster ride of being human is often grueling, especially when we try to face it alone. Even more frightening, is the number of kid’s who already fear tomorrow.
After September 11th in New York City, my church set up a program where members could adopt families who had suffered greatly from the tragedy. My husband and I were paired with a single mother and her two sons. The two brothers had been on the playground that day near the Towers and watched as men and women jumped to their death. It would forever change their lives. I remember the first time they came to our house. There was an awkward silence. The family remained politely quiet during the spaghetti dinner and dessert of chocolate cake. Fear was the great white elephant in our small apartment. And then something wonderful happened. We introduced the boys to our dog, King Louis! He was a master of hugs and wet-nose kisses. Instead of fear, the boys were surprised by joy!
I have spent a great deal of my studies at Vanderbilt and within my own ministry trying to understand what healing looks like. I have learned the hard lesson that healing is not always a cure or an answer to the “whys” of suffering. The resurrection does not erase the cross, but a deep healing is made possible when we open our arms and extend our hearts to one another. A hug is an act of faith, a tangible expression of hope. Jesus was a master at embracing the physical and the spiritual suffering of humanity. Jesus knew that every time he reached out to touch someone, he was offering a healing that tunneled to the seat of the soul. He spent his life administering “divine hugs” to the blind, the lame, the lepers, the ugly, the beautiful, the sinners, and the saints.
The French word for hug is embrasser. “Je t’embrasse.” I embrace you. Isn’t that what we all need? To have our entire being embraced by God? When we embrace one another, what we are really doing is trusting in the power of Love to work a miracle, to make what was broken, new, to bring light into the darkness, and hope where there was only hopelessness before. Shame on us when we are stingy with our love. We must open our arms and embrace one another. I wager that this whole, magnificent planet of ours could use a great, big bear hug.
When it is all said and done, a hug reminds us that we are not alone in this life, that God is with us, as close as our heart beat and as near as our breath. There is not one of us that couldn’t benefit from time spent in the loving and merciful arms of the Beloved. The fastest way to experience a hug from God is to hug another. It works every time!