24th July 2019
Does it exist? National ‘Hug-a-stranger’ Day? In the UK, the land of Stiff Upper Lips and formality? I have not the faintest idea, but if it doesn’t, it should. Nothing is more surprising and uplifting than being hugged by a total stranger in the middle of a supermarket. I should know, it happened to me this morning.
There I was, cocooned in a persistent cloud of melancholy, minding my own business and perusing the shelves for ingredients for tonight’s supper. Should I buy broccoli? Or courgettes perhaps? Decision time! And something desperately needed to tax my brain…
Today’s wander around the supermarket was by no means an isolated event, as a matter of fact it is pretty much a daily occurrence. To keep my fitness level at its optimum, my exercise regime consists of a daily one-hour long hike to the nearest supermarket, backpack dangling off my shoulders. As I can only carry so much in one go, there always seems to be something missing in the fridge.
Crunch time. I opted for broccoli in the end. As I glanced up from my shopping basket, my eyes came to rest upon a fellow shopper standing right in front of me: a woman in bold, summery dress peering musingly over her bespectacled nose, her face breaking into a broad, radiating smile. I smiled back, it’s what anyone would do…
‘Fancy seeing you here. Come here, let me give you a hug,’ she beamed. For a moment, I hesitated. Was someone standing behind me? But no, without further ado, we got tangled into a very hearty embrace… ‘Go with the flow,’ wisdom whispered in my ear, ‘no harm in a hug.’
I had a better look… Did our paths cross somewhere before, I wondered. Did I detect at least a modicum of familiarity??’ I scoured my brain as, inwardly, I raced from the doctor’s waiting room to the chemist via the dentist, from the train station to the supermarket aisles and random people I may have had random conversations with in the last few weeks, but my mind drew a blank…
‘Do I know you?’ I hazarded. Call me suspicious, but it’s not every day I get greeted with so much gusto and enthusiasm by a stranger… The woman retorted with a quizzical look, clearly at a loss for an appropriate response. I briefly suspected a brush of amnesia, or a touch of Alzheimer’s…
‘Oh my God,’ she blurted out suddenly, ‘I thought you were my sister-in-law!’ And after another thorough scan, and a shake of the head, she added, ‘You are her spitting image… Same hair style, same glasses, same figure…’. We couldn’t help but burst out in laughter. Luckily, we were beyond the age and stage of embarrassment. Haven’t we all done it before… waved at someone on the other side of the road who turns out to be a perfect stranger, or being waved at by ‘Who On Earth Was That?’ Rushed to catch up with a friend’s back disappearing in a crowd, only to tap a lookalike on the shoulder…? However, it seldom becomes an intimate encounter involving a hug. Most of the time, we have sussed out the error long before it gets to that…
At least from the very personal entanglement, I would say she thought very fondly of her sister-in-law, but maybe more regular contact to know what she looks like and her dress-sense may be advisable. Would my double also really go to the supermarket wearing flimsy, lace-rimmed shorts that are more at home on a sun-bleached Cambodian beach than in a British supermarket and UK suburbia? I had debated this morning whether something a little longer in the leg might not have been more suitable. In my defence, we are in the midst of a heatwave and we might as well have been in the Far East, even as early as 10 o’clock in the morning. And what the heck, they’re my legs and they shall party if I want them to…
‘They say we all have a dead ringer somewhere in the world. Mine is clearly not too far from home,’ I filled the awkward void once we had composed ourselves. ‘Better not tell your sister-in-law about mistaking a stranger for her,’ I advised.
‘No, maybe not,’ she agreed at first. ‘But come to think of it, I just might… She will probably find it quite hilarious,’ she added with a big grin, adjusting the spectacles that had slipped even further to the edge of her nose.
There was something special and more personal in our goodbyes. ‘Well… um, enjoy the rest of the day. And see you around some time.’ I had a new spring in my step and a wide smile on my face as I walked all the way home… Being hugged by a stranger can have surprising effects.
As it so happens, there has been such a thing as ‘National Hugging Day’ in the US since 1986, celebrated each year on 21st January and apparently observed in many other countries. And who knows, maybe members of younger generations in England are fully aware of this annual auspicious event, it is just that its existence has merely passed me by unnoticed…
And if you feel like partaking, either showering hugs or being happily on the receiving end, mark this date in your diary now:
|National Hugging Day|
|Also called||National Hug Day, International Hug Day|
|Observed by||United States|
|Next time||Tuesday, 21 January 2020|
For more inspirational ideas to make the world a better and happier place, visit http://www.peopleforgood.ca It’s all common sense, we just have to act upon it.