When you need to give a hug

When I stepped on the hotel elevator on the second floor, the only other person inside was a twenty-something woman. She was crying but working hard to not. Yet she couldn’t stop. I have been there — something hurts so badly you can’t control the emotion, even when you’re in a public place and you feel embarrassed at not being able to stop.

I paused briefly to look at her, unsure whether to ignore her and mind my own business to my 14th floor room. I noticed she’d pushed the 6th floor button so I knew we wouldn’t share this space long.

But ignoring someone in pain did not seem the right thing to do. I had no idea what caused such agony and had no idea if she had someone to comfort her on floor 6. But when I see human pain like this up close, I feel compelled to act.

“Can I give you a hug?” I asked.

She nodded yes.

So I hugged her until we arrived on the 6th floor, without saying a word. Whatever awkwardness there was from two strangers silently hugging was dissipated by being authentic with each other in real time.

The elevator stopped at 6 and she exited. I never saw her again.

Later, I wondered if I should have reached out further: “Do you have someone to talk to in your room? Or someone you can call?” Then, if she said no, would I have felt compelled to be the one she poured out her angst to? Would I then be embroiled in this stranger’s life when I had other things on my docket fo the day?

I’ll never know what caused her such strong emotion. But I am glad I offered the hug.

3 thoughts on “When you need to give a hug”

  1. I will never forget the kindness of a stranger in an airport the day I found out a dear friend had died. I got the news via a Facebook event invitation — how strange to receive an invitation “from” a dear friend for that friend’s funeral! I was sitting in the airport, staring at my phone, and weeping. A few minutes must have passed, and then I saw two shoes in front of mine. I looked up and a woman was holding out a packet of Kleenex and a cookie. “I always find I need a little something to eat after a shock and a cry,” she said. And then she walked off.

  2. This reminds me of a similar situation awhile back with me that happened with friendly woman on a train when I was going to work. I was crying, more like bawling my eyes on the train because of a family fight, and I couldn’t stop the tears. She came over to me, without me knowing, gave me a tissue, looked straight into my wet eyes, and said “It’ll be OK” with a smile and made a gentle gesture and touched my arm to convey that what she said was genuine and heartfelt, and then she got off at her train stop. This, I felt, coming from a stranger, spoke more than words to me; it was the true feelings and kind gesture with the words that made me feel better.

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