That First Hug
We recently celebrated Enrichment Day at Neighborly, a team-building annual event that let’s us break bread together, do something good for our community, honor our outstanding associates with awards and so much more. But an extra gift soon followed when James Hall, who received an award that day, followed up with this email. With his permission, I am sharing it with everyone to enjoy this added inspiration.
My fellow team members,
Those of you who were at the Enrichment Day might have seen me taking notice that there were a lot of hugs going around that day. That might be a bit unusual for a work awards ceremony. But it touched me that there is such a sense of community in our work environment. There are a lot of folks really hurting right now within our own work family, and I could see that caring for others was actively working within our campus. You see a hug changed my life when I was about 12 years old. Not one I received, but one I witnessed and thus inspired me to give my first hug. As you can or can’t imagine, life at that point for me was not one full of hugs. So thus I share the following…
It was Christmas day on an outdoor carport of one of those 1,000 SQ FT shingle sided military houses right off of Randolph Air Force Base and I had bought my baby brother Michael, who was 7 years old, the perfect gift or so I thought. You see Michael was born without a blood transfusion he needed at birth and suffered irreversible brain damage that rendered him cognitively disabled for life. It was really a challenge to come up with a gift because Michael’s favorite pastime was to destroy things. It was his way of venting frustration, from tearing down shower curtains, knobs off doors, holes in the wall to actually tearing plug plates off the wall on especially bad days. However, I had come up with the perfect gift. A Bozo the clown inflatable punching bag! I was so excited as we opened his gift together. He had a kind of look of puzzlement on his face when I was blowing up the thing with my signature NFL air pump. After I got it blown up and the sand bag adjusted correctly at the bottom, I had to figure out how to communicate to him how the toy worked. The challenge of course with Michael was he could not talk or understand language at all and I remember thinking, ‘How am I going to explain this toy to him?' It was then that I just showed him how it worked. I starting punching Bozo, and of course Bozo, with that silly grin, would bounce back to me on the rebound. And each time I would hit him harder so he would bounce back harder — so hard the last time that he nearly touched the cold cement floor. So as Bozo was gently rocking back and forth I took Michael over to him and said your turn. He went up to Bozo, stood there for a moment, and then gave him a great big hug. I was shocked and then realized for the first time that though Michael was broken he could still feel love and kindness and was as human as any of us. I went over to him and with uncontrollable tears bursting from my heart I gave him a loving hug and told him for the first time how much I loved him.
What a gift and life lesson he gave me that day. A hug had changed me forever and I think it can for a lot of people. God Bless.