most of us don’t worry about our hugging technique as we hit
that awkward awakening stage of adolescence. Kissing is the mystery.
We all laugh a little at the depictions of young, anxious teenagers
trying to practice in private how they will kiss.
of us are familiar with the young girl closing her eyes and leaning
in to smooch the mirror as she imagines her new crush, only to be
completely mortified by a younger sibling popping into her room
without knocking. We may remember the worries about bumping noses,
trying to read the signals, or starting to move in for a kiss, only
to find the other person ducking away. We may not have been there
literally with that mirror, but we can gently relate.
is not so fraught with peril. Hugging is more about support,
gladness, sympathy — expressing love in the broad sense rather
than the romantic. Of course, a hug can matter a lot from the
person who is a romantic partner, because romance isn’t all we
need in life.
had a sister in the ward who lived to be 100 years old, and who was
able to stay in her home until she was 96. She had been alone for a
great many years, her husband having died in his late 60s.
quoted a study in a Relief Society class that suggested that we all
need several hugs a day. She piped up and said that she was way
short on her quota, and she hoped that all the sisters would help her
build up a reservoir of hugs every Sunday that would last her through
the coming week. We tried to oblige.
was her visiting teaching companion, or her visiting teacher, several
times as the assignments changed over the years, and I always had a
hug with her as well as a prayer. I loved being hugged back, too.
are something we grow up with, and they are usually as natural to us
as a smile. They are an expression of warmth, of affection, of
empathy. You hug someone rather than shake his hand because you feel
closer to him than that. It’s an impulse, a message, rather
than a social expectation.
I suppose that this hugging discussion goes more to the women than
the men, in that women are more apt to wrap their arms around friends
or loved ones and encircle them literally and physically with their
expression of love.
may have a different approach, but the salient elements still apply.
Whether it’s the quick hug and retreat, or the arm around one
shoulder with the other hand firmly grasping yours (that men are
likely to offer each other), what makes it matter is the attention
what a hug gives us, isn’t it? It’s the offering that we
have that person’s full thought and attention, his
comprehension and sympathy, her I-can-identify show of empathy and
couple of weeks ago, I saw that a woman who has had serious health
challenges was able to attend church. I was having a difficult time,
because I had been in a recent accident, and added to that I was
deeply worried about the situation of one of my children. I had felt
close to overwhelmed at some points that week.
stopped me in the corridor and told me that she knew I had been
praying for her and how much she had felt it and was grateful not to
feel so much like she was drowning.
had to tell her that I was so glad she was doing better, but I didn’t
know how much I had been concentrating on her right then because I
was having a rather rough time of it myself. She responded that she
would pray for me and it would be better. We were standing very
close, and she pulled my head over to hers with one hand and embraced
me with sympathetic murmurs.
felt so grateful — not that my worries were magically waved
away or instantly solved, but because I had that moment to soak in
the love and the faith of a dear person’s heart, and know that
she was ready to understand. So much of our comfort and strength
comes from knowing that we are not alone. I felt her prayers, and
others, through the following week. Things got better.
one of the most important reasons that we are commanded to meet —
to have the blessings of fellowship with the Saints. We need to
cling fast to each other, to stand firm under the blasts of the
angry, often evil world. It’s only getting worse out there.
Heavenly Father promises that he will never leave us comfortless,
that we are never alone. Human connection is so essential; when
someone’s arms go around us and we feel a heart saying that
right this moment nothing else is more important than hope and love,
the Spirit will wrap itself around us both and make it known that God
is with us also.
advised, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of
God.” Don’t we all need that?
even if someone you care about is finding her “quota,”
give her a hug — and just call it a bonus! After all, there’s
no actual quota on expressions of love. Help that reservoir fill to
overflowing whenever you can.
Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her
father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always
partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family
took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.
The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always
included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions
at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or
poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and
service, were the family currency.
Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the
University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was
graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law
student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother
always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years
later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends,
and her opportunities to serve.