Hugs may not be all we need in reality, but they can sure make a difference in your life. I know two people who are without a doubt the best huggers in the world. When they hug you it makes you feel like the most loved and secure person ever. Growing up, my family was pretty conservative with hugs. Over time new people would become members of our family and through them we were taught the way a hug can make your feel. It’s been an irreplaceable gift.
i’ve recently gotten to know a married couple where one of the spouses has Alzheimer’s Disease. She can be funny and silly and frankly not make a lot of sense. However, she has an amazing way of communicating that is easily understood. She hugs. If she wants to hug you, watch out! Ann walks up to strangers and tells them they look like they need a hug and out go her arms. She doesn’t think twice about it.
Recently Ann and her husband went on a vacation to Colorado. As Ann’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, her “filters” have weakened. We received a note from Ann’s husband about their experience. I’d like to share it.
“I wanted to share a great story about Ann that has taught me a lot and that we can all learn an important life lesson from. As many of you know, Ann’s “filters” in life have been lessoned quite a bit the past several years from her disease. She loves to walk up to people she does not know and offer random words of affirmation, encouragement and hugs. Her favorite “targets” are young moms with kids and elderly women. Recently Ann was shopping with our daughter in law and randomly went up to a lady, got her attention, and with a big smile looked her in the eye and told her how beautiful she was. Ann reached out and they hugged for a long time. The lady was quite emotional and said, “ I am 84 years old and I really needed this today.”
I have been with Ann when she has done this literally 100’s of times these past several years. I have never, never, seen Ann get a negative response. Many are taken back at first, but they always seem to quickly warm up to her. Sometimes she tells them her story about her health.
I was thinking about Ann’s lack of filters and wondered about the filters in my life and all of ours that keeps us from treating others in a similar manner every time we walk out the door. Filters of feeling too busy in life to take time to care, filters of fear of rejection, filters or fears of being vulnerable, filters of being afraid of what others will think about us when they observe us, filters of not wanting to get involved in people’s lives we don’t know.
Ann has been unable to be involved in much formal ministry work these past couple of years because of her disease. I think God is using her in an amazing way in people’s lives by her random acts of affirmation, encouragement, kindness, and lots of hugs. Sure it can feel uncomfortable for those of us with her at times, but then again, WWJD. I know it has stretched me in my life in the way I have been interacting with people more openly these past couple of years.”
The note continued on further, but the best part is what I shared above. I have been a recipient of Ann’s hugs. They do wonders. While I do not wish Alzheimer’s on anyone, there is goodness that has come from the ugliness of this disease. I hope in my life it doesn’t take something tragic to make me earnestly strive to help another person feel better. Imagine the impact we could have on each other by saying , “You are beautiful!” and extending your arms to hug.
I can’t say I’m ready to completely release my inhibitions, but perhaps I can start with a smile, or a hello. Maybe Ann’s experience will help me to lighten up. I hope so,
because it would make a world of difference.
All we need is hugs…and more Anns.