I woke this morning to find a text waiting:

Dear Erik:

I love you.  In my stunted, lopsided, entirely sincere and unapologetic way, I do.  Also, I fear that you are overworked.

This was from a male friend.

It got me thinking.  In some form or other, I hear “I love you” an awful lot.

I am hugged an awful lot.  I am thanked, affirmed and encouraged an awful lot.  And an awful lot of ‘X’es and ‘O’s come through my phone. By an awful lot, I mean dozens of times a day.

I certainly don’t take it for granted.  But it suddenly occurred to me that many people — most people — don’t live this way.  And that must make it all seem very Pollyanna. Yet this is the norm among my friends.  If anyone in our “little family” (which isn’t so little) ever tried to shake hands with each other, we would all burst out laughing, as if it were a joke.  Shaking hands to say hello?  C’mon!  But again, it occurred to me that, for many, a handshake may seem downright intimate.

So how did I fall into this charmed life?  How did I get lucky enough to wind up in the mix with so many people of this sort?  Did I hit some kind of love lotto?  I mean, really?  How is this even possible?

Ever the astute one, I also noticed that I say “I love you” an awful lot.  I give an awful lot of hugs.  I thank, affirm and encourage others an awful lot.  And I send out an awful lot of ‘X’es and ‘O’s through my phone.

It leaves me wondering if there might be a connection.

Perhaps ten or twelve years ago, I realized that my mother and I never hugged hello or goodbye.  I knew she loved me, without a doubt.  It was just one of those things we … didn’t do.  So one day, as I stood at the door after a visit, I delivered this proclamation:

Mom, I hug people.  Young and old.  Married and single.  Male and female.  I hug people.  But I don’t hug you, and you’re my own mother.  So I know it will be weird, but we are changing that today.

She got all flustered.  She assured me that she loved me, and I assured her that I knew.  She told me that it wasn’t that she didn’t want to, but, well, that she wasn’t raised that way, and she was old now, and it was just, well – just not the way she did things.

Ignoring her completely, I proceeded to wrap my arms around my mom and hug her.  Now, she’ll laugh that I’m telling you this, but that first time, she did what I refer to as “The Nurse Betty.”  She stiffened up, held her breath, turned her head to the side, and smartly patted my back with two, firm, flat-palmed whacks.  Had she been an Englishman instead of Nurse Betty, she would then have pulled away, coughed uncomfortably and ostentatiously low in her throat as she straightened a nearby picture frame that didn’t need straightening, and said, “Well, then – cheerio and all that, my boy.”

I laughed, which made her laugh.  I then gave her a quick lesson in hugging sans Nurse Betty pats, and we tried it again.

She was a fast learner.

Today, my mom is a hug maniac.  She hugs us, her sisters, her mother, her friends, her neighbors.  Strangers walking down the street.  Stray dogs.  She just hugs people and it’s like – well, it’s like she was raised that way.  She also says “I love you” an awful lot.

Ever the astute one, I’ve noticed that, since my mother became this hug maniac, she also receives an awful lot of hugs.

Data noted and entered into the log, to be considered with previous data toward drawing a conclusion.

Without formal experimentation, I’m going to venture a few hypotheses:

  1. Being open encourages others to be open.
  2. Genuine positivity is contagious (cf. Chad).
  3. Things that were once uncomfortable can become the comfortable norm given practice.
  4. People can change.

Please help me test the veracity of these statements by conducting your own experiments, collecting the data, and informing me of your findings.  Thank you.

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