Carol Miller runs a non-profit consultancy called Positive Focus. In addition to her work to create a positive community, she has volunteered her time to give free hugs to strangers in Chicago.
Hugging is a silent way of saying… you matter to me.
I’ve told the story before about my client Anna. Because she told me no one had hugged her in the six weeks since she had last seen me, she helped me realize how many people don’t have the opportunity for healthy touch.
Another client also taught me about hugging. For me, hugging is how I show people that they matter, but Laura taught me that another person might not interpret it that way.
Laura was referred to me after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She had a hard life and was dealing with a major illness. Just like with any doctor’s office, my clients fill out a variety of paperwork. On Laura’s chart it specifically said, “NO HUGS.” I knew it was important to honor and respect her boundaries, so I didn’t hug her.
But I realized that she needed to be loved. She didn’t have a lot of love in her life, and really needed it. Over time as I got to know her, she became part of my tribe and we saw each other outside of our chiropractic appointments.
From Laura, I learned that we need to respect others’ boundaries. Laura’s life experiences made her uncomfortable with hugging, and if I had insisted, it would have hurt our relationship. Instead I respected her boundaries and followed her requests and she was able to trust me. We became good friends because of that trust.
I also learned that each of us can change. Laura was firmly opposed to hugging when we first met, but as time went on, our friendship grew, and her feelings about hugging changed. And I was able to use hugs to show her that she mattered to me.