Daily Connector | When can we get the hugs back? | Jenny Campagna

In the beginning of March, I was on a boat in the waters off Dana Point, CA watching dolphins and sea lions glide through the water. The small boat was crowded with families including two little girls from Indiana who immediately decided that they loved me a lot. Their younger brother was unimpressed by my charms, which was just as well because his giant rainbow sucker rendered his face a sticky mess.  The girls threw their arms around my neck and kissed my face on slobbery repeat while their mother looked at me apologetically.

They asked me what was my favorite color. I said blue and purple. I can't choose one! They agreed those were very good colors though one girl preferred pink.  They shouted with glee when I answered that Ariel was my favorite Disney princess.  Them too! Can you believe it? They swore their undying friendship to me.  After the boat ride we met friends at a restaurant on the pier.  They were concerned about the pandemic but hugged us at the end of lunch saying, we are okay.  Everyone is okay.

It is now six months later and no one would allow such giggling closeness, such enthusiastic human contact with strangers.  We tentatively hug our family, maybe depending on shared risk tolerance factors.  With at risk grandparents wrapped in sheets of plastic on social media to be near their gloriously grubby little ones, the caution is extreme to meet the dangers of the pandemic.  Tears streaming down their grandbabies' faces being separated for too long from their soft hugging beloved grandmas, they hug through plastic.

A few weeks ago, I sat in my neighbor Dan Halterman's back yard while we tried to fathom the number of new CMC babies we didn't get to touch/bless as they marched noisily through the church aisles with their parade of big kids and jubilant instruments.  We are Marching in the Light of God. We are Marching in the Light of God....

Someone recently told me they weren’t attending twelve step recovery meetings on zoom because “let’s face it, people really go for the hugs.” I worry about people struggling with addiction.  I worry about my new mom clients who are robbed of vital support, some of whom describe having a baby during a pandemic as traumatic. 

I realize there are non-hugging sorts for a variety of reasons and perhaps family therapist Virginia Satir’s recommendations were too prescriptive.  She recommended 4 hugs for survival, 8 for maintenance and 12 for growth.  Is this akin to the introvert/extrovert discussion at the beginning of the pandemic with many people saying this home staying is just darn near perfection.  Still, I am fairly certain that the zoom hugs are wholly insufficient for a great many of us.  We want to breathe each other’s air, sit close by, and many of us feel a good squeeze from old Mennonite friends might change everything for the better.