I’m a hugger. It’s just what I do. If I could find a way to fit the entire world between my arms, I would keep it there, holding tight, always. Not because it belongs to me, or I belong to it, but because we belong to each other, and that’s something worth embracing.
I have found no better way to say hello or goodbye or I love you. The language of the body is often more powerful than words. Every hug is an invitation. Opening your arms is a way of asking, “Please, come in.” Holding someone close is a way of telling them, “And stay forever, if you like.”
And people do, stay forever I mean. Because once you have held someone within your arms, you never forget the feel of it. You never forget the way their body fit against your own. You never forget what was said between you without the use of words.
And so you take those people with you wherever you go. You carry the memories of their hugs and those unspoken conversations. You remember what it felt like to be happy and sad and in love inside someone else’s arms. There is nothing that can compare to such comfort. There is no fire that can rival its warmth.
And although you keep those hugs, adding them to your collection, they never belong solely to you. Hugging is a shared experience. You can be the giver or the recipient or both, but never neither. You cannot do it alone.
Hugs are not ownership. Holding someone close does not hold anyone back. It moves two people forward, together, in friendship and in love. It is my favorite gift to give and receive. It is my favorite greeting and apology and unexpected surprise. It is the closest I have ever come to being able to hold the world between my arms.
I hug tightly. I hug fully. I hug as though hugging is all I have to offer, which is sometimes true. Those are often the best hugs, the ones that arrive out of desperation, when all other forms of comfort have failed. Those are the hugs that save us. Those are the hugs that last.
I have a friend who is the world’s greatest hugger. He’s always been that way. And although there are many things that I admire and adore about him, I associate him most with this skill. When I think of him, I think of hugs. I think of delight and comfort and love. I think of the way he has often saved me, simply by opening his arms and allowing me to come in.
All my life, I have tried to return this favor. Not just to him, but to all. I have tried to embrace the world with warmth and comfort and love. I have tried to share these feelings. I have tried to speak without words.
All my life, I have held people close. Not to keep them from leaving, but to ensure we take each other with us wherever we go. I have extended so many invitations. I have accepted so many offerings. I have clung to these gifts forever.