I LOVE hugs. In fact, touch is one of my “love languages.” You’ve probably read or heard about the healing power of touch. Reduced blood pressure, lowered stress levels, boosted immune system–just some of the reported benefits. Did you also know that Virginia Satir, a psychotherapist, stated, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”? I first read that on a parenting blog, and it reminded me to lavish hugs on my boys. Sometimes their hugs for me come with a squeeze around the neck that cuts off my flow of oxygen, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On Wednesday, I received a hug from an unexpected source: a slightly scruffy homeless woman named Trudy. Driving to the store, the boys and I noticed a woman sitting on the curb beside her bike. The sign on her bike read, “Homeless. Please help.” I told the boys we would drive out that way so we could stop and help her after we finished at the store.
After we bought our groceries, we pulled up beside her. Smiling with only a few teeth in her mouth, she jumped up from the curb and walked over. I introduced myself, shook her hand. She didn’t offer her name, but I asked anyway. “Trudy,” she answered. I offered her the bag of goodies that we kept in our van for just this purpose. In the bag were socks, bottles of water, crackers, applesauce, a comb, and other items that come in handy for a person in need. This bag (and 6 others like it) was actually a birthday gift from my friend, Cathy. And I must say that they composed one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received!
Cathy is the kind of friend who finds out you’ve had the flu and then calls up and asks, “Hey, I heard y’all have been sick. Let me make you a meal.” She’d discovered that my boys and I had kept cereal bars in our van to give to homeless people we encountered, so she put these bags together with that in mind–and she took it to a whole new level.
Equipped with the resources that Cathy had provided, our family was ready to serve. “Here’s a bag of some things that might be helpful,” I offered to Trudy as I held out the gallon-size plastic bag. Before I even finished, she eagerly accepted it and thanked me. I asked her if I could pray with her; she agreed. So I took her hand in one of mine and then put my other arm around her skinny shoulders. When I finished praying, she prayed, “And, Lord, bless this lady ten-fold.” We thanked each other, and then I hugged her. Trudy hugged me right back, tightly. As we said good-bye, I told her that I hoped we’d see her again. Of course, I hope that she finds a life with stability and safety, not out on the streets or in the woods (where many homeless people live in central Florida), but the reality is that we’ll probably find her at the curb again.
I don’t know Trudy’s story, but I do know that on Wednesday, our lives intersected. We communicated, we prayed. And we hugged.