Allegedly, everything is bigger in Texas – steaks, bank accounts, cars, you name it. But the big moments in life – the birth of a child, a wedding, that job promotion, graduation – are far between and few. Instead, it’s the small pleasantries that wake us up to the value of everyday. Texas has it backward.
Enter Hug Man – former student Beta Rock. He’s the guy that sits on the stone façade at the southwest corner of Morse Hall and offers free hugs to anyone interested. Sometimes he is joined by friends. Often he’s alone. But rain or shine, he waits with his dry-erase board to give away the universal symbol of acceptance.
It’s not for us to determine what his motives are, nor do we really care. Someone, somewhere needed what he had to offer and they were thankful for his service. “What” he represents is more important than “why.” He illuminates an aching need in society, one that pitters away through cynicism wrought by distrust in authority, years of interpersonal heartbreak, dashed ambitions and lowered expectations. He represents a need for unconditional human intimacy.
This is not to say that Hug-Man embodies pure love. He just happens to provide a kindness that is paradoxically simple, and, to some people, off-putting. The strange looks he gets from people passing by haven’t seemed to faze him. We could learn from that too.
One doesn’t have to seek recognition in order for the world to be better. Our niceties can be as simple as feeding a parking meter that has expired before the motorist’s return or holding a door open for someone. And perhaps it won’t feel that good, either. It’s arguable that we only do kind things so that we can feel better about ourselves. To a degree, that’s obviously true.
But anyone who thinks for longer than a few minutes on a particular kind gesture will see that it’s not the entire truth. A small portion of us hope to ease suffering where it exists, even if that suffering is something as small as a parking ticket.
Hug Man sits and sits and sits. His hugs are generally no better or worse than anyone else’s. He won’t force you into a conversation you don’t want to have, and he certainly doesn’t want your money. Any confusion we have about him, about why he does what he does, is only a grappling with our own insecurity.
If you don’t need a hug, that’s fine, but understand that some people desperately do. That understanding should be enough to warrant a unique kindness of your own.