I wish I could give you a hug right now. I really do. I’d reach through this screen and squeeze you so firmly that your eardrums would pop.

I would hold you for a long time, too. I would hug you for five, ten, or thirty minutes. Long enough for everything to start getting a little weird. Then I’d hug you some more.

Because people need hugs. We need them in a biological way.

Oh, sure, you probably think you’re doing all right in a hugless world. You think you’re surviving just fine without all that sappy Oprah Winfrey business. You’re tough. You’re self-sufficient. You’re smart. You’re intelligent. You drink V8.

But you’re wrong, pal. You need hugs. You need someone to embrace you, for your own health, and you need it right this moment.

You see, when two people hug, their hearts are squished together, only separated by inches of bone, adipose, and muscle. During a hug, the two cardiac pumps actually start beating together like two kettle drums making perfect music.

Sort of like two violinists, playing Strauss. Or like two clarinetists in junior-high, playing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” simultaneously, but in two very different keys.

You probably know this already, but hugs release a chemical in the brain called oxytocin, which is what most neurologists refer to as the body’s “Woodstock” hormone.

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel, quite literally, loved. It is the body’s own love drug.

When you give or get a hug, your body is flooded with oxytocin, your “love” hormone levels go through the stratosphere. Your blood pressure goes down, your immune system improves, and your mammary glands begin producing more milk. Which is nothing short of a miracle, especially if you’re male.

In short, a hug can save a person’s life.

When I was a boy, at our church there was a volunteer program called the Baby Savers. The idea was simple. Anyone could sign up to cuddle and hug premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at the local hospital.

Church ladies did this because cuddling was medically proven to improve a preemie’s chance of survival. Physical touch stimulates a newborn’s immune system, circulatory system, central nervous system, and all the other systems. Simply put, babies who are not touched will die.

Well, there was this man in our church who I am going to call Clyde. That wasn’t his real name, Clyde isn’t anyone’s real name. Clyde was a large Black man with cotton white hair and a quiet disposition. In fact, he rarely spoke. Clyde’s wife did all his talking for him.

His wife was wonderful. Everyone loved her. She was an outgoing, animated woman, with a powerful voice. She sang soprano in the choir and could belt out hymns loud enough to crack the glass above the baptismal.

When Clyde’s wife died he almost died with her. The poor man was a wreck. He was stuck inside his house for almost a year. He lost his job, his gumption, and he became famously depressed.

People from the church would stop by his home to deliver cheese-laden casseroles, enormous dinners, and spend time with him. But truthfully, nothing could bring Clyde out of his funk.

That’s when my aunt added Clyde’s name to the Baby Savers sign-up sheet.

My aunt tells the story better than I do, but she recalls watching this six-foot-nine man, with shoulders wider than a Buick Roadmaster, walk into the NICU and lift a premature baby in his herculean hands.

Clyde sat in a rocking chair and cradled infants until the night shift nurses had to send him home. He was back the next morning even though he wasn’t on the schedule. He hugged babies again the following day, too. And the day after that.

My aunt says one afternoon Clyde started crying when he was holding a preemie. He started heaving and quivering so badly they had to take the baby from his arms.

Then, all the little-old-lady volunteers surrounded Clyde and group-hugged him until they practically smothered him. My aunt said she had never seen a grown man cry that hard before. She also said that hugging babies is what eventually brought the old man back to life.

Years later, I saw that man in a grocery store. He was stocking the shelves when he recognized me. The first thing he did was come at me with his arms open. It was a colossal hug.

We held each other in the middle of the supermarket and I was lost in his embrace. Clyde slapped my back and I slapped his, as Christmas music played over the intercom.

And, even if only for a moment, I felt the profound weight of love. Real love. Biologically transforming love. The same love that made this universe. The same love that is saving this selfish and tired human race, even as we speak.

Then I came directly home and wrote this.

71 comments

  1. larfromhays - December 8, 2021 6:31 am

    The number one TV anchorman in Denver back in the ’60s was Clyde Davis. Yep, Sean, there really are people named Clyde. Just, not anymore.

    Reply
  2. Olivia Lawrence - December 8, 2021 6:39 am

    I loved this. Your message was crafted just for me. You didn’t know.

    Thanks and hugs.

    Olivia

    Reply
  3. Don Crews - December 8, 2021 7:21 am

    Thank you Sean, thank you.

    Reply
  4. field4kids2015 - December 8, 2021 7:47 am

    What an amazing story. And so very true – we all need to give and receive hugs on a regular basis. Mama hugs are the best – my sweet mama will be 86 soon and her hugs can make anything better – happy things and sad things. I’m a mama of four grown kids, kids who come in the back door with their arms wide open, because they know they’re about to get mama hugged. And hugging them is as good for me as it is for them. I’ve also been blessed with six grandkids and they all learned pretty early on that MomMom is going to give them a big ole grandma hug – so they better be ready for it.
    Sadly, one of the things that Covid stole from us for awhile was hugs. Hugs we all needed, but just couldn’t give or receive for awhile. I, personally, am trying my best to make up for all those lost hugs, thanks to vaccinations and boosters. And in my humble opinion, I think we should all make sure that we hug everyone we love really well while we can, in case a Covid variant stops us from hugging again in the future. ❤️

    Reply
    • Diane Copeland - December 8, 2021 3:25 pm

      I want to know where he works. I want to hug him too!

      Reply
  5. Amanda F Allen - December 8, 2021 8:14 am

    AMEN to your whole story except the part about “Clyde”. I know two of them. One is a man and the other a grown woman. What were her parents thinking?

    Reply
    • Leigh Amiot - December 8, 2021 3:11 pm

      Amanda Allen, I knew a female Clyde as well and had the same thought. My late mother told me at the time that Clyde used to be commonly used as a female name back in the day. (Mom and Clyde were born in the ‘30s.)

      Reply
  6. Steve McCaleb - December 8, 2021 8:29 am

    Son, you have a great heart. And I thank God for the day I stumbled across your blog. I like to think I’m a better person….thanks to you….( and Him). You have a great gift and don’t let anybody tell you anything different. Keep on uplifting this mass of humanity. God knows we need it more than ever.

    Reply
  7. Maria Mullins - December 8, 2021 10:02 am

    Sean! This was so, SO GOOD!!! Just brought tears to my eyes and gave me a new resolve to HUG and not withdraw from people no matter what kind of pain I feel inside, or anger at this world right now. Thank you!!
    ((Big Hugs))
    Maria Mullins

    Reply
  8. Jan - December 8, 2021 10:04 am

    Too beautiful for words but thankfully you found the perfect words after all.

    Reply
  9. Anne Arthur - December 8, 2021 10:05 am

    Thank you, Sean, for reminding us of the most essential “medication” on this earth, hugs & love. Hugging you right now…I hope you ca feel it.

    Reply
  10. Deb - December 8, 2021 10:42 am

    Just WOW!

    Reply
  11. David Grant - December 8, 2021 11:00 am

    Sean great article. Write on my friend. You deserve a hug !!

    Reply
  12. Lisa K Riley - December 8, 2021 11:03 am

    Hugs are life giving. I received one this weekend from a friend. She and I have both suffered catastrophic losses this past year: her daughter and my husband. The internet has kept us going. We live states apart and we didn’t know when we would see each other. I was blessed to be able to be close enough this past weekend to see her in person. That hug was amazing. We wrapped our arms around each other and just held on. Thank you for confirming what I knew. We need hugs.

    Reply
  13. Liz O - December 8, 2021 11:38 am

    🤗 This made my day as your columns often do

    Reply
  14. Leland Locke - December 8, 2021 11:56 am

    It took a little Italian, Slavic lady to get me to be able to be hugged again. I did not like being touched for a long time. Now: hugs are VERY important to me. Good work, Mr. Sean.

    Reply
  15. Rosanne Toews - December 8, 2021 12:30 pm

    Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Sitting here crying.

    Reply
  16. Debbie g - December 8, 2021 12:35 pm

    Beautiful. Sending hugs to you and Jamie. Love y’all. And hugs and love to us all

    Reply
  17. Linda Cook DeVona - December 8, 2021 12:37 pm

    Holiday hugs to everyone! And Sean, love your illustrations, too!

    Reply
  18. Sonya Tuttle - December 8, 2021 12:43 pm

    Profound!

    Reply
  19. Joan+Moore - December 8, 2021 12:58 pm

    A very warm mental hug sent to y’all through my LG 8!

    Reply
  20. Heidi - December 8, 2021 1:17 pm

    Oh how I loved this one!
    And my precious Dad’s name was Clyde.
    And my grandsons middle name is Clyde.
    And it’s a good, strong, kind name.❤️

    Reply
  21. Suellen - December 8, 2021 1:23 pm

    Whenever my family talks about my Grandma someone will mention her hugs. They were big bear hugs and she literally hugged you until it hurt. I discovered the value of hugs when I was in my 30’s and probably went overboard with it for awhile hugging EVERYbody even when they didn’t want to be hugged. Covid has been hard on us huggers but I’m glad to see hugs are back in my little world anyway.

    Reply
  22. Karen Howard-Goss - December 8, 2021 1:37 pm

    I love you Sean and Jamie! There are few days that go by that I don’t read your column and want to give you both, and your doggies, big hugs. Much love to you and your loving hearts!

    Reply
  23. Deborah - December 8, 2021 1:44 pm

    One of my uncles is named Clyde. Great piece!

    Reply
  24. Amanda Dobbs - December 8, 2021 1:45 pm

    Boy, howdy, this was a good one. Many hugs to you and those who need them most.

    Reply
  25. Kathy - December 8, 2021 1:50 pm

    So, so good. You keep giving me hope.

    Reply
  26. Al Cato - December 8, 2021 1:51 pm

    Hugs are such good medicine! My daughter and I volunteer 3 days a week with special needs adults. Many of them are Down’s Syndrome. We take them bowling. When we see them, there are Hugs. I’m talking about full Hugs! Usually after each frame and the pins go down, there are high fives, low fives and lots of smiles. Sometimes there
    is a strike or spare…..automatic Hug is joyfully given and received. As they exit the bowling alley to get on the bus, Hugs are joyfully given and received. We look forward to seeing them again because we know they’ll Hug us and Hug us until we let go. Such good medicine.

    Reply
  27. Susan Walker - December 8, 2021 2:06 pm

    Hi Sean – Lord love you. This was desperately needed yesterday. Hugs right back at you and Jamie.

    Reply
  28. Paul McCutchen - December 8, 2021 2:09 pm

    We all need hugs. We all need more hugs than what we are getting. More is better on some things.

    Reply
  29. Shelton A. - December 8, 2021 2:14 pm

    Here’s a hug back at you, Sean. Because touch is important to all of us, especially preemies and huge, broken-hearted men named ‘Clyde’. Thanks for the great story and the biology/physiology reminder too. Oxytocin is a very necessary part of living a more healthy and happier life.

    Reply
    • Karen - December 8, 2021 3:24 pm

      Sean, I am send you a hug. You are so right. I always hug. I have hugged many students and even strangers. Of course family and friend hugs are included. My sweet friend Clyde, a member of the Greatest Generation, was a superior hugger. I keep his hugs in my heart.

      Reply
  30. Shirley Lieberman - December 8, 2021 2:26 pm

    Thank you Sean
    I needed to read what you wrote.
    Enjoy your day in whatever way you feel.
    Faithful reader
    Shirley

    Reply
  31. Robyn - December 8, 2021 2:44 pm

    You are right about hugs Sean and I need one. I wish I was hugging you right now…but the best I can do is send you a virtual one right now. You’re the best!

    Reply
  32. Nancy - December 8, 2021 2:55 pm

    Whenever I read you, I feel your hug. It’s Big Love. Like the lyrics to Home…
    https://youtu.be/W_fVFbiF1qA

    Reply
  33. Susan - December 8, 2021 2:58 pm

    I too believe in the power of Hugs! Thanks for another heartfelt story.

    Reply
  34. MermaidGrammy - December 8, 2021 2:59 pm

    Stunningly beautiful and oh so true. Not just babies, but old people who never get touched (.nobody wants to touch an old person) die earlier that others. Thani you again for this

    Reply
  35. Leigh Amiot - December 8, 2021 3:13 pm

    Love your comment section about as much as I love your essays, Sean. People are almost always nice, rarely see bickering here as opposed to other places on the internet.

    Reply
  36. Charlotte Bohannon - December 8, 2021 3:17 pm

    I have a grandson who gave the best bear hugs you could ever get. The kind you are talking about that last forever and you can barely breath. He would even lift you off the floor and he would always tell you he loved you. Sadly he passed away 4 years ago at the age of 29. We really miss those hugs but you know what now all my grand children give me hugs like that. It reminds us that life is short so let everyone know how much you care about them. Thank you for being the kind of man you are and letting everyone know.

    Reply
  37. Stacey Wallace - December 8, 2021 3:26 pm

    Sending you and Jamie a big ‘ol bear hug.

    Reply
  38. Wanda - December 8, 2021 3:36 pm

    Nothing can ease a hurt or lift your spirits better than a hug!

    Reply
  39. Kathleen I Smith - December 8, 2021 3:42 pm

    I think this is my favorite post I have seen from you this year! I totally agree with you. The thing I miss the most about my son is his huge bear hugs!! I was a single Mom when divorce was considered a blight on me and it made it hard to raise 3 children in a small town in IL. My son would greet me every day when I came home from my job at the local bank with a huge hug and I love you Mom! He would squeeze me so tight and I loved it! That hug gave me the strength to go to my second job each day as it reminded me what I was doing it for. He joined the Navy when he was 19 and left home to start living his own life. He now lives in FL and is a grandfather with 2 little granddaughters. I know he gives those hugs to his family whenever he sees them! Due to COVID I have not seen him in 2 1/2 years. How I miss those daily hugs! I am looking so forward to Christmas & receiving hugs from my daughters and grandkids, but I know I will miss that huge bear hug from my son as he will not be home.

    Merry Christmas to you & your family!

    Reply
    • Susie - December 8, 2021 5:52 pm

      Kathleen, since your son won’t be home for Xmas, please accept a big, long virtual hug from me! ❤️ He sounds like a KEEPER!! Ya did GOOD, Kathleen! 🤗

      Reply
  40. Gwen - December 8, 2021 3:45 pm

    Just the best post ever.

    Reply
  41. Sue Adams - December 8, 2021 3:50 pm

    What a great lesson. This was not done in my home (I am 86) Mama and Daddy did not hug each other and I don’t remember getting hugs. No doubt I was loved but not hugged. “Keep your hands and thoughts to yourself” it was hard not to teach myself this philosophy when I had my own children. Thank you 🙏

    Reply
  42. Tom Wallin - December 8, 2021 3:54 pm

    Call me when you need a hug. I will be there for you anytime. You deserve it since you always help folks all the time.

    Reply
  43. jsmillerjr - December 8, 2021 3:59 pm

    Sean, I needed to read your words this morning. Today is my mother’s 89th birthday. She is towards the end of her journey with Alzheimer’s. It’s been a long road to travel with her. This morning I went by to check on her at her nursing home and there she was, this tiny frail woman who is folding into herself like an infant. I couldn’t get her out of the bed to hug her but I did tell her several times that I loved her and held her hand and kidded her forehead. I was about to leave and I decided to sing her happy birthday. I’m glad that I did. And I wish that you could be here to hug us both. She would love that. Thanks for the encouragement today.

    Reply
  44. Oliver Rhett Talbert - December 8, 2021 4:41 pm

    Thanks for another heartfelt column. As a pastor, I found another group of folks who hunger deeply for hugs – for any kind of touch, really: cancer patients. Sometimes it isn’t practical to hug them, but any kind of touch that doesn’t involve a needle is usually welcome. There is a kind of unspoken notion, very widespread, that the cancer can somehow be transmitted through touch, so many patients are treated as untouchable, even by their loved ones. It’s unconscious, but it just adds pain to the disease that has already been devastating to accept – much less to fight.

    Reply
    • Susie - December 8, 2021 6:00 pm

      Pastor, who, in this age of information, would still believe you can contract cancer by touching someone!?
      Perhaps, you, as their shepherd, should share with them a website that gives out FACTUAL medical information? 😏

      Reply
  45. Nancy Carnahan - December 8, 2021 5:04 pm

    My late husband hugged everyone–from friends and family to waitresses. Surprisingly none of the waitresses ever slapped him. I hug everyone too, but one granddaughter and a great niece don’t want to be hugged. I have to remember to pull back on that one.
    I would love to go to a hospital and hold babies. Unfortunately, the nearest hospital is an hour away and it’s small.

    Reply
  46. Dianne D. DeVore - December 8, 2021 5:18 pm

    My husband passed away a year ago, one week before Christmas. He was 6’3″ and was known as “The Hugger” or “The Minister of Hugs”. He greeted everyone with a hug and always said “Everyone needs a hug.” You story today reminded me of him. Hugs are important and everyone of us needs a hug!

    Reply
  47. Suzanne+Moore - December 8, 2021 7:05 pm

    I loved this, Sean.I knew all the biological stuff, but the story of “Clyde” and the babies just drove it all home. As a school counselor, I saw the healing power of hugs daily. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  48. MAM - December 8, 2021 8:30 pm

    I, too, came from a not very hugging family, although my Mom did hug once in a while. My daddy rarely, although the things he taught me were his version of hugs and love for me. And I married a non-hugger, but he has come around and will accept a hug at any time now! I’m looking forward to hugging our daughter and granddaughter in a couple of weeks!

    Reply
  49. Susan L Wolf - December 8, 2021 9:53 pm

    At a suicide prevention workshop members of my church were told that everyone needs 8 hugs a day and they need to be 30 seconds long at least. They hugged us when we left the meeting. When I got home and told my husband we realized we often give each other a peck on the cheek or say, “I love you,” but seldom hugs. I’m now the recipient and giver of at least two or more hugs a day.

    Reply
  50. Linda Moon - December 8, 2021 10:05 pm

    I wish I could do what your title is requesting. I’ve had a few bone-crusher hugs of yours, and I hope to get more. Hugs are needed – even by tough, self-sufficient, and smart folks. Once I watched a mother who was hugging her baby for a long time. The baby had no vision or hearing, yet Mother continued to talk to and look lovingly into her child’s eyes. Real Love. Goodness, I’m glad you went home and wrote to us.

    Reply
  51. Anita Smith - December 8, 2021 10:21 pm

    I could really use one… sending one to you ❤️

    Reply
  52. chrisineedstoshare - December 8, 2021 11:14 pm

    Beautiful. 💞

    Reply
  53. Cheryl Andrews - December 8, 2021 11:22 pm

    This is so sweet! Thank you!

    Reply
  54. Patricia Gibson - December 8, 2021 11:24 pm

    Love is very important! Pass it on❤️❤️

    Reply
  55. Sheri - December 9, 2021 12:02 am

    I could have used a hug today. It’s been a hard one. Just felt pretty worthless. Thank you for cheering me up. You usually do. You are a blessing.

    Reply
  56. Melanie - December 9, 2021 1:23 am

    Even after almost thirty years, I miss my Mom hugs every day. There’s nothing like it. Hugs to you and Jamie from Tybee Island.

    Reply
  57. Dru Brown - December 9, 2021 1:31 am

    Clyde is a river in Scotland and was my grandfather’s elder brother. When I hold my two year old grandson and/or six month old granddaughter, the oxytocin rush turns me right back into the mama I used to be.

    Reply
  58. Mary - December 9, 2021 1:29 pm

    Thank you again, Sean, for a great start on this December day.

    Reply
  59. Elgin Clark - December 9, 2021 2:17 pm

    What does it take to get a response? I know you must receive 100’s maybe 1,000’s of emails. I’ve written you before Sean but nothing back. This column touched me because right now my wife and I are separated because of this damn virus. She’s in ICU and I’m home. I commented on this story yesterday. Maybe you can find it? Not looking for you to part the heavens. Just wanted to share. Elgin

    Reply
  60. Sandy Burnett - December 9, 2021 3:30 pm

    Sitting here crying and laughing and thanking the Lord for Sean Dietrich and Clyde and love and V8 and being alive and babies and hugs.

    Reply
  61. Christina - December 9, 2021 5:00 pm

    Oh the power of feelable love!

    Reply
  62. Debbie - December 10, 2021 6:06 am

    I love this.

    Reply
  63. Kate - December 12, 2021 1:38 pm

    My father moved from Tampa, Florida to Eastman, Georgia when he was in his 80’s. He found those life saving hugs from the wonderful people at the Presbyterian Church in Eastman. He lived for Sundays when a wonderful friend would pick him up and take him to church. Children, young people, and pretty ladies also gave him a hug. (The men were generous with their handshakes). My dad lived to be 94, and I believe it was because of the love, kindness, and sweet hugs from that wonderful church.

    Reply
  64. Helen - December 13, 2021 1:47 am

    Enjoyed this so much, but Sean, i know you didn’t mean to hurt any feelings about the name. I forgive you. My husband was named Clyde and I loved him with all my heart.

    Reply
  65. Christi - December 13, 2021 2:39 am

    I have been alone for several years. Widowed after 55 years +2 years courting. I haven’t had hug in a very long time and I sure do miss it.

    Reply
  66. Roseann - December 13, 2021 3:00 pm

    That’s a beautiful story and especially in our current “anti-hug” world. I didn’t realize how important hugs were until the Virus struck and I couldn’t hug my adult children.

    Reply

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