Nothing, and I mean nothing, feels as good as a hug. This month alone, I’ve spoken at a handful of places and I have received roughly—this is no exaggeration—five trillion hugs from people.
Including two hundred grade school students this morning.
Hugs do something to a person. After ten hugs, a fella starts to feel warm inside. After two hundred, his heart is raw. Right around four hundred, he forgets every evil thing he ever saw or heard. People need hugs. And by “people,” I mean me. I love a good hug.
I also love baseball. It’s a beautiful game. While I write this, I am listening to a radio. The Milwaukee Brewers are doing battle with the Dodgers. I want the Dodgers to eat mud.
And, I love football. I was born during the third quarter of Coach Bear Bryant’s farewell game. My father was watching the hospital-room television during the exact moment the doc smacked my hindparts.
I’m crazy about small towns. The world has gotten so big. Shopping malls are bigger. Interstates have swallowed rural routes. Small churches are disappearing. The women’s groups of my mother’s generation have become a thing of the past.
But not in small towns. In small towns, Little America is still alive and well.
Which reminds me: I love little things. I love them even more than I did when I started this article.
The small Chevette I learned to drive in. The small coin I bought at a gift shop atop the mountain where my father is buried—I carry it everywhere. I like little trucks from yesteryear. Little farmhouses. Little billboards painted on the sides of barns.
Little upright pianos in my aunt’s den—the kind she only plays at Christmas.
Speaking of holidays, I love them, too. Each and every one. Christmas, Turkey Day, Labor Day, and Halloween.
Last year I spent Halloween at my Uncle Geether’s house holding a bowl of candy. A boy visited my uncle’s doorstep dressed like a bloodsucking underlord. It was a grotesque outfit that made my hair stand up.
My uncle asked the boy what he was supposed to be.
“I’m the Devil,” said the kid.
“Well, I wanna shake your hand,” said my uncle. “I’m married to your sister.”
I like bodies of water. Lake Martin, Wheeler Lake, Lake Guntersville, the Choctawhatchee Bay. I need to be near water, otherwise I feel restless.
Hank Williams, Don Williams, and Willie Hugh Nelson. I like the way the sound of a guitar blends with a fiddle.
I like shoes that don’t look new. And I like the smell of leather.
I like teachers. They see the world differently than I do. Like the woman I just met, Miss Zelda. Her thirty-student class is bursting at the seams. She is a marvel to watch in action. The children worship her.
I like Reynold—a man who visits nursing homes on weekends even though he has no kinfolk there. He visits with lonely elderly women who need someone to call them “Granny” once in a while.
I like James, who drives a truck for a living. He has fourteen kids at home. Fourteen. He drives a semi because he tells me it “helps put good food on the table.”
His oldest daughter just graduated college as a speech therapist. His second oldest is about to graduate with a degree in nursing.
And my friend, Don, of Tampa, Florida. Don was just diagnosed with cancer last year. He was in treatment, and people have been worried about him. He has fought, he’s lost weight, and yesterday was his medical consultation.
A doctor told Don and his wife that he was in remission. It was a celebration.
He wrote asking if I’d write a few words about the blessings I hold dear. I’ve named a few. But not nearly enough. In fact, I haven’t even scratched the surface.
And besides, no amount of words can ever describe how good it feels to get five trillion hugs. Which is what I’m sending to you.
All at once. Give one or two away if you get a chance. Don’t do it for me.
Do it for Don.