|Art by Mimi Noland, from The Hug Therapy Book|
(Compcare 1983, ISBN 0-89638-065-3)
On Sunday evening, our Taizé prayer group led our annual Prayer for Peace at a downtown church, a place we'd never prayed before. We arrived an hour early to set up and were met by the minister and a young man who helped us get organized. Richard was most anxious to be of assistance, and went out of his way to be hospitable in every possible way.
Toward the end of the evening, I thanked him for all he had done. "How about the snacks? Were they okay?" "Excellent," I said, and gave him a thumbs up.
When the time came for us to go home, I went to thank the minister with a hug, and Richard stepped across to hug me, too. It was totally unexpected, but much appreciated, and on the way home, I found myself moodling about how we can meet strangers for a short time and never really know how much we'll impact one another. Clearly, something I had done or said touched Richard, and his hug touched me, too. I won't forget that moment.
Then, this morning, Suzanna and I returned to L'Arche for the first time since she left the Community Centre to start university. Usually, Thomas is there to pepper us with questions as we walk in the door, but today, Darren spotted us coming first and hustled over to give us both hugs in his most unusual way.
Hugging Darren is a bit like hugging a porcupine -- it's very careful, and you can't get too close. He sort of stretches his hands out and puts them gently around a person's neck. Today, when his hands were around my neck, he sort of snuggled in just a tiny bit, and I found myself kissing him on the forehead, my eyes filling with tears, as it was only the second time I've ever received a hug from him. He did the same to Suzanna, whom he had never hugged before.
Darren is a non-verbal man with autism, and Suzanna and I have come and gone from the Community Centre many times without him paying any notice. But today he was clearly very happy to see us!
It's been a Novemberish week, grey and cloudy, but well-placed hugs are definitely a ray of sunshine.
*I use pseudonyms for all my L'Arche friends.