Today, I headed out the door about 7:30 a.m. for my regular morning walk. About 5 minutes into it, I noticed the crossing guard I see each morning talking to an 8 or 9-year-old boy waiting to cross the street. I returned to my thoughts as I kept walking. A few seconds later, I heard the sound of screeching of tires.
My heart racing, I looked up and saw the crossing guard in the middle of the street standing just inches from the grill of a huge burgundy SUV, still holding her red stop sign.
I paused for a moment, scanned the scene to check if she and the boy, who thankfully was still back on the curb, were safe and then picked-up my pace as I moved toward them. She and I got to the sidewalk on my side of the street at the same time.
“Wow, that was way too close for comfort,” I said, not exactly sure what to say, but feeling I couldn’t ignore what just happened. She responded with a timid “Yes,” and when she turned her head to look at me, I took a step forward to put my arm around her shoulders and then decided to hug her. She hugged me backed with a deep, rich I-am-glad-to-be alive-hug, and I told her I was so sorry that she had such a close call. She thanked me, and told me the woman driving said she had never even seen her, and added that the woman had to be going 35 miles or more in a school zone.
We spoke for a few minutes, giving her time to calm down. I asked again if she was okay, she smiled and said she felt better. I crossed the street and continued my walk.
When I reached the other side of the road, I realized I had just hugged a woman I didn’t know, which immediately reminded me of time a few years earlier a hug caught me by surprise.
In the fall of 2008, I was delayed seven hours in the Zürich airport on my way back to Macedonia for my assignment there as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I love airports so I was happily wandering around when I walked into a duty-free store and headed for a tall tower of Toblerone chocolate bars.
As I approached the tower, a women, who was working in the store and was adding to the display, turned around. We looked at each other and smiled that full, crinkly-eyed smile you spontaneously produce when you see someone you are close to or a friend you love, and we moved forward to hug each other. We were surprised and delighted to see each other. Funny thing was, we both then realized that we did not know each other at all.
It was awkward – what do you do? Do you continue moving into the hug or back-away? At that point, the fact that we were heading into the hug was obvious, as was our new found hesitancy. Instead of continuing to move forward, we both stopped, dropped our eyes, made slight body adjustments to “look normal” and smiled politely at each other, choosing to ignore the moment of intimacy we had just shared.
She asked if she could help me; I said “Yes,” and I ended-up buying way too much dark chocolate. We parted ways with no mention of the moment we had both shared.
Each and every time I think of that scene, and it plays itself back in my head more often than I ever thought it would, I wish I had hugged her.
And, somehow this morning, I felt like I had finally completed that hug. Not sure if this makes any sense, but I completed the Zürich, Switzerland airport hug on a sidewalk in Cape Coral, Florida and it felt right. Perfectly, wonderfully right.
I promise from this day forth, I will always follow through with my hugs, no matter the person or the situation, because I now realize – I have never regretted a hug given, only the ones interrupted or left undone.
Happy hugs to you and to all those you choose to hug today, tomorrow and for all the days ahead for you.