Back in late July of 2010 (actually, Picasa – and my camera – tell me it was on Saturday, July 24, 2010, at 2:45 PM) we were enjoying the Summer weather at Sycamore Cove State Beach here in Malibu, Caifornia. We had camped out in an adjacent site in Point Mugu State Park, which requires a short walk to a sand carpeted tunnel that takes you under the Pacific Coast Highway; very kid safe! I can’t recall if it was with the Indian Guides or the Girl Scouts, but we were there with a bunch other families and a bumptious horde of little girls.
Despite my having recently undergone surgery to remove a Melanoma and a couple of lymph nodes (just to be sure it hadn’t spread, which it hadn’t), I was determined to spend some time on the beach. My wife had purchased both a long-sleeve, UV-resistant shirt and a large umbrella designed to corkscrew deep into the sand. I was able to sit in the shade pretty comfortably and enjoy my children and their friends – and a beer or three – frolic in the surf and sand.
We had been there a couple of hours when this young man and two women came walking by. He was holding a sign that said “Free Hugs”. Most people were ignoring him but, being the old hippie that I am, I just couldn’t resist availing myself of his offer. Frankly, I think those who didn’t (and that was most everyone on the beach) were being disrespectful. Here was a fellow human being who, despite all the fear in this world, was offering to hug perfect strangers.
To tell you the truth, for all I know he could have been pledging a fraternity (though the timing wasn’t right) or working on some sort of thesis or paper (the timing wasn’t terribly propitious for that either). I really didn’t care. It just struck me as the right and decent thing to do. Besides, there is something magical about connecting with strangers in a very human way. Hugging is something we all do. Hell, even male professional golfers hug their caddies nowadays . . . at least after a victory!
It’s now well over a year and a half later and I’m still healthy, so I guess he wasn’t carrying any communicable diseases. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind. Regardless, I think we all can use a hug from a stranger now and again and after surviving my cancer scare I suppose this was just one way of my affirming I’m alive and kicking. Next time you see someone with a sign like this, go ahead a stick your damn neck out. I doubt you’ll be sorry you did.
PS – Just in case you were thinking, “That Rick’s a lying SOB. He just took a picture with the guy for fun”, here’s the pic Linda took shortly after we posed for the one above.