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October has been a month of hugs in my circle, and I’ve made the most of every one of them. Seeing old friends and family, celebrating moments together, absorbing loss together. Hugs come in all shapes and sizes, just like people do. But there are a few that stand out:

Hello hugs are the best, for they signal reacquaintance after time away. Sometimes that time is as brief as a walk to the other room, and sometimes it’s a return after years apart. Hello hugs are warm and welcoming and signal “We’re back together again! Let’s get on with the party, already!”. Hello hugs are always tinged with joy for the moment at hand.

Celebration hugs are savored when our favorite team wins the big game, or when our child successfully navigates a milestone moment like graduation or completing a recital. Weddings and anniversaries are milestones too, and we huggers go a little bit crazy at them. Celebration hugs draw in even the non-hugging crowd if you catch them at just the right moment. High fives are fleeting, hugs capture forever.

Comforting hugs are rolled out at moments of grief, shock and despair. When we lose someone, when we fail the test, when we don’t get the job or get into the school or our team loses the game it calls for consolation and comfort. Hugs do the trick. It’s a signal that we aren’t alone—we’re in this together. Nobody wants to have to give or receive these hugs, but whether we like them or not, they’re as much a part of our lives as celebration hugs.

Perhaps the biggest hugs are goodbye hugs. The squeeze is tighter, the embrace is longer, and they radiate warmer than any other hug. On the face of it, goodbye hugs signal “Until we meet again,” but whisper, “There’s so much we’ve left unsaid”. Goodbye hugs are always bittersweet.

There’s another hug, the reciprocal hug, used often in some circles and never in others. It’s the “You bet I’m still here for you” hug, applied liberally with family and close friends in quiet moments. These hugs are seized out of the thin air of life; captured moments of affection and commitment at any old time. Walking by at just this moment? Have a hug. Doing the dishes? Have a wet hug. Taking the dog for a walk? Let’s hug the dog together. Sadly, not everyone has access to them, but everyone should. My best advice is to seek out people who think nothing of generous, reciprocal hugs.

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