bio_dave_hingsburgerShe is standing right beside me looking me directly in the eye. I am 63 and in a wheelchair and she is 10 standing tall. All around us people are hugging each other and saying hellos. Now she and I are connected in a kind of abstract way and if family trees were drawn she’d be over there and I’d be over here and I’d be one of the ones with the dotted, not solid, lines.. I’ve met her, I think, only once before. She is a lovely child. And. She is looking at me.

I am looking at her and I knew that to her I am really, a stranger. I said to her, in the context of hugs and greeting going on around us, “I’d like to give you a hug, but I’m kind of a stranger to you and you don’t have to if you don’t want to, I’m good with that.” She actually looked a bit surprised, a choice had been offered. So she did what she needed to do, she thought about it.

“I’d like to give you a hug,” she said.

Now, before I go further, I want you to notice her wording because it’s of vital importance. She said:

I’d like to give you a hug.

She did not say:

It’s OK for you to hug me.

There’s a big difference between those two statements. Remember, I had said that I wanted to hug her, but that she had a choice. I was the person initiating the potential hug. She could refuse it.

If she had said, “It’s OK for you to hug me,” she would have been granting me permission to give her a hug. She’d be ceding to my request.

But she said, “I’d like to give you a hug,” she is saying, instead, I have made the decision and this is what I want to do. She wasn’t letting me, she had now taking the initiative and stated her preference.

Then.

She gave me a hug.

And it felt great.

Part of the reason it felt great was because a 10 year old girl had thought about the hug, had made a choice about the hug, and hugged because she wanted to, not because she’d been asked to.

It was a fully consensual hug.

And those feel really, really, good.