"Everybody needs a hug. It changes your metabolism."

-- Leo Biscaglia

Have you ever heard of an organization called "HA"? If that question has you stumped, how about "Huggers Anonymous?" I don't if such an organization exists, but in any event ...

"My name is Eizo and I am a hugger!"

I wasn't born a hugger. At least I don't think I was. The youngest son of Issei parents -- that's immigrant parents from Japan -- I don't recall ever having seen my folks hug each other, let alone hold hands. That just wasn't Japanese.

It doesn't mean they didn't love each other. Quite the contrary.

My mother worked alongside my father in their cramped neighborhood grocery store from sunup to well past sundown six-and-a-half days a week while raising three boys during the Great Depression. And I never heard her complain. If that wasn't love, what is?

Following the outbreak of World War II, my father fell ill and was separated from his family for the duration of the war. My mother wrote him weekly for more than three years to keep him apprised of how the family was progressing in his absence. If that wasn't love, what is?

I procrastinate when I have to write a simple thank-you note.

I don't know when I became a hugger. At this stage of my life, that's not important. As I recall, my parents bowed whenever greeting friends. It's a Japanese tradition. Bowing is still in vogue in Asia, although the practice seems to be slowly giving way to the younger generation who liken to the western style -- unabashed hugging and all the fancy handshakes.

I will concede not everyone likes to hug. As a matter of fact, there are many who don't even like to shake hands.

Not me.

There's something about hugging which binds a relationship that's wanting even a warm handshake.

I remember a workshop I attended for law enforcement managers in San Jose 35 years ago. As the members were wrapping up the weeklong session, we gathered together one last time.

A sheriff from Montana, an imposing giant of a man standing well over six-and-a-half feet tall and weighing more than 300 pounds, picked me up with ease despite my 175 pounds, and gave me a bear hug I won't ever forget.

Although powerless in his embrace, I felt the security of a cub cradled in its mother's arm before he gently put me down. As we parted, he offered me and my family an open invitation to vacation in his mountain retreat in Montana.

I forget his name and never took him up on his offer, but will always cherish the sincerity I felt in his hug.

Call me a romantic. I like many of the definitions relating to "hug" like affection, cuddle, embrace, snuggle. I like to think that most folks like a hug now and then, and pity those who don't. My one regret is that I didn't hug my parents enough while they were alive.

So why am I making a big thing out of hugging, you might be wondering. Well for one, we probably wouldn't be having half the social problems we bring on ourselves if we did a lot more hugging and a lot less carping.

Here are a few of my favorite aphorisms regarding hugging:

  • "A hug is the shortest distance between friends"

  • "You can't give a hug without getting a hug"

  • "I don't discriminate -- I'm an equal-opportunity hugger."

    Now ask yourself, "Have I hugged my spouse or friend lately?"

    Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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