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I Hugged a Stranger Today…

I hugged by a total stranger today and it felt…alright.

We grow up being warned not to talk to strangers. So we don’t. Then we raise our children not talk strangers. Hopefully, they listen. But is this the best advice? Yes, sadly it is and I’m passing to my grandchildren. DO NOT TALK TO STRANGERS kids! It’s a sad reflection of our society I know.

I don’t even want my grandkids sitting on Santa’s lap! Seriously, who IS that man? And why are parents so eager to have their most precious possessions take a picture with a total, complete, I-don’t-where-your-hands-have-been stranger? Brrrr…. It freaks me out!

santaSometimes kids know better than their parents.

When I travel, I talk to strangers all the time. On trains, I ask for directions then chit chat about the weather, or country side or whatever may be appropriate at the given moment. People for the most part, are receptive and don’t shy away.

On a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu a few years ago, I developed a relationship with the passenger next to me. She told me about her family, what she did for a living and why she loved Honolulu so much. She lived in Honolulu and knew her way around the airport very well. When we landed, she asked me to meet her at specific location.

After collecting our luggage, my husband and I met up with her at the specified area. What a surprise to find her waiting for me with a glossy picture book of Oahu. I no longer remember her name, but I remember the feeling I had when a woman whom I knew I would never see again, felt enough of a connection with me to buy me a book.

At home, I’m less likely to engage in conversation with people I don’t know, unless I’m in a line and I’m annoyed about something or another. In that case, I will ramble on to anyone who is listening. This is not exactly called “engaging” however.

So, how is it that I ended up hugging a stranger?

I am sitting in my local coffee shop (yes, it was Tim Horton’s) minding my own business, sipping my extra-small with milk and deep into my Twitter feed, when from behind me I hear a male voice say, “Excuse me. Do I know you from somewhere?”

Clearly a “pick-up” line I think. Actually at my age the thought is, yeah! A pick-up line! But I remain composed and looked up at the stranger.

“No. I don’t think so,” I answer.

“Do you work at the daycare across the street?” he asks.

“No I don’t.”

“You look familiar.”

“Yes, I’m told that quite a bit.” (I really am.)

“My name is Rojas. It’s Spanish. I’m from Ecuador,” says my stranger friend as he extends his arm out for a handshake.

“My name is Maria Guadalupe. It’s also Spanish,” I respond with a smile as we shake hands.

My stranger friend does not appear to be familiar with Spanishness of “Guadalupe.” I change continents, “Maybe it’s more Mexican,” I tell him, figuring since Mexico is closer to Ecuador he would then be completely familiar with the name “Guadalupe.” He is not, so I move on.

As he stands next to me waiting for his toasted bagel smothered with cream cheese to be put together, we engage in idle conversation. As we do so, I begin to conclude that he is perhaps someone who does not engage much with people. Or maybe they don’t engage with him. There is something a little ‘different’ about him, and ‘different’ is difficult.

monkeyhugWhen strangers hug, one may enjoy it more than the other.

Not one to shy away from providing someone with a little cheer, I continue our conversation. I learn that he has 4 siblings, works nearby and is on his lunch break.

When he is handed his order in the familiar brown paper bag, he clutches it to his chest much as one might do if given a gift of precious stones and fearing they might get stolen. At this point, I say, “Well, it was great to meet you. Maybe I will see you here again.”

“Yes,” he responds. “It was nice to talk to you.”

And that’s when he leans down towards me, wraps his arms around my torso and gently squeezes. I respond in kind. He beams and I smile.

Somehow, in a small way, I believe I brightened that man’s day (and I didn’t even have to travel far).

And for that, I feel pretty darn good!

By Maria Yates

Maria Yates is a freelance writer living in Toronto. Her love of travel has taken her throughout Canada, the Caribbean, USA and several European countries.   She has learned that people have one thing in common—they love to laugh.  As she roams, she finds the most pleasure in the unexpected and often funny moments that pop up in everyday life.  Maria enjoys sharing those times with her readers at, Maria is My Name.

©2013, reprinted with permission