June 15, 2015

The (Unlikely) Hugging Bandit

A funny thing happened to me on the way into church last Sunday. To stay true to the introvert persona, I am not a very touchy-feely person. Not at all. So that makes this story even more unusual.

In May I attended a men's ACTS retreat coordinated by my parish. It was a very powerful experience. Once you return from an ACTS retreat, it's a common practice to greet your fellow ACTS brothers with a hug when you run into them at church or anywhere else.

It's usually what's known as a "man hug." You know what I'm talking about, right? It starts with a handshake but then the left arms reach around for a hug, frequently involving lots of back slapping because, apparently, guys still want to show that they're tough while hugging each other!

[Image credit: higherunlearning.com]

As my family and I were walking into Mass, the usher who held the door for us was from the ACTS retreat, so we did the standard man hug greeting. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But then things got strange when I encountered someone else.

As we passed by the baptismal font, another guy walked up to me and very enthusiastically said, "Hi, Adam. How are you?" and reached out for a handshake. Based on his enthusiasm, I instinctively assumed he was also from the ACTS retreat, so I immediately escalated the handshake into a hug.

I could tell from his body language that he was a little surprised by the hug. Then he said, "I didn't know you go to this church." It immediately became obvious that this man was not from ACTS. In fact, I have NO IDEA who he was.

We both quickly said farewell phrases like "so long" and "take care" and went our separate ways. Perhaps you're wondering why I didn't just ask him what his name was. That probably would have been okay at the beginning while we were just shaking hands. But I think it was a little too late for that. You can't initiate a hug and then say, "By the way, who the heck are you?"

I'm guessing the unknown hug recipient is probably a former coworker from several years ago. But I really have no clue.

So if you come up to me and say hello from now on, don't be surprised if I stare at you for a few extra seconds before making any sudden movements.


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