Jen Murphy is the Manager of Retreats & Events at the Center and she offers our reflection today. As a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Bon Secours, she works with presenters to plan a schedule of retreats and events that are open to the public to attend. For a complete listing of programs available when the Center reopens, please click here.

Hugging Like Never Before

I’m a hugger.

I feel fortunate to be able to hug and receive hugs consistently from not just my immediate family, but extended family members, friends, close neighbors, church members and my coworkers. I have a very large family. In addition to my own family of five, our frequent visits with other relatives are always met with hugs and again when we say our goodbyes. When I haven’t seen good friends in a while, it’s the same social practice with them too. If neighbors are going through difficult times and I want to help, hugs are always included. It’s also not uncommon to be greeted at my church with hugs. Many of us at the Retreat & Conference Center feel like family too, so if we’re going through rough times, we’re there for each other with hugs and support.

I know that I’m not alone in my hug fan club either. According to many scientific studies, hugs can have many physiological and emotional benefits. Hugs can actually improve your immune system, lower stress, increase your self-esteem, promote trust, reduce depression and, of course, they demonstrate appreciation. (Lamberg, 2020)

And then, this March, it was as if a light switch was suddenly turned off on hugs. There is now an actual ban on this favorite form of friendly affection with anyone outside our homes.

This has been one of the hardest parts of the pandemic for me to personally cope with. Even though I know that my new lack of hugging is a demonstration of love and protection, it simply doesn’t feel good. To see my own mother from a ‘safe distance’ seems completely counterintuitive. To refrain from our familiar embrace feels mean and completely unnatural.

How can we show others that we care without touch? How does a hugger survive?

Well, we need to be creative…from a distance. We all have a bit more time on our hands, so now is the time to show our appreciation in different ways. Send frequent texts and social media messages to others. Call loved ones and chat for a while. You can even send hand written (gasp!) cards and notes to loved ones. Do you have a loved one who works in healthcare? Share their social media pleas for needed supplies so that they have a greater chance of receiving them. Volunteer for a friend’s special cause or pledge a small donation. Put spring flowers on the doorstep of a neighbor. Offer to pick up groceries for elderly family members or friends. Most of all, pray for those you care about and let them know. There’s something special about knowing that your name was included in another person’s prayer that touches you. Yes, prayer can “hug” you.

Whenever I’ve been going through a rough time, I’ve leaned on my faith and this pandemic is certainly no different. When I run out of words as I pray during these times, there is an image that I like to bring to the forefront of my thoughts. The image is of Jesus wrapping his arms around me in a hug like no other. It’s a hug that I’ve never physically felt, but the image is so real that I’m quite certain that I still receive many of the scientific benefits of a hug like those listed above.

This is a time like never before. It’s time to “hug” those around us like never before. It’s time for us to “hug” the world like never before.

PS: Here’s the link to a quick article about the benefits of hugging that I referred to above. If you are fortunate to be sheltering with a family member or pet, this is a great time to test these hugging benefits. 😊 https://www.thehealthy.com/mental-health/benefits-of-hugging/