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Hugs for the Holidays

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A universal gift with the best return policy ever.

By Roy Spence; Photo by Alexis Wilson, GSD&M. Book photo by Randal Ford.

OK, you Austin men out there (women too, but mainly men): You say you’re not a hugger. Well, I say do what my dear friend Governor Ann Richards used to say to me every time I ran in to her, “Precious, get over it and get on with it.”

I am encouraging all of you—again, especially you men—to give unconditional, authentic and heartfelt hugs to everyone this holiday season. I come from a family of huggers, especially my dad, Roy Spence Sr., or “Big R” as many people called him. He was born in the culturally rich yet economically poor border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, in 1913.

As you may know by now, I had many great and frankly remarkable adventures during his extraordinary 95 years, but some of the fondest memories I have are from my childhood, walking hand in hand with him in Piedr as Negras, a Mexican border town right across the Rio Grande from his hometown of Eagle Pass. Now, Big R was a straight-up, 6-foot-5-inch, strikingly handsome man. But when he met somebody on the street, he would bend right over and hug them all—men, women, children. He would say in Spanish, “Meet my son, Royito,” and the hugging would start all over again with me.

When I was a little boy, my dad taught me that, as a man, it is cool to hug everyone. As a dad, he never ever hesitated to give me a public hug. And while I may have been a tad embarrassed by it a few times in my life, that was just the way it was. As he always said, “Be kind to everyone you meet because everyone is fighting some kind of battle .”

My new book, The 10 Essential Hugs of Life, is now out. Jared Dunten, my partner and illustrator, is the most amazingly talented and gifted and courageous man I know. Jared and I teamed up to spread the word that hugs have the hidden power to lift people up, especially yourself. When you go on a journey of hugs, you find richness in the language of hugs.

As so many people have said in so many different ways, hugs are handshakes from the heart; a hug is like a bandage to a hurting wound; you can’t give a hug without getting one; no matter how hard you hug your money, it never hugs back; a hug is the shortest distance between friends; hugs are the universal medicine. I believe that.

The 10 Essential Hugs of Life is an interconnected circle of healing and happiness. Each one is important, and you can’t create a full life of joy without all of them. So during this holiday season, use the healing and loving power of hugs that you hold in your mind, heart and arms to lift spirits, including your own, to build bridges and offer genuine love and empathy

So people—yes, especially you men out there— give a lot of hugs for the holidays. They are free. They come from the heart. They are always the right size. And the only return policy that hugs ever come with is you will get a big hug in return.


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