The Hug

The Hug


The Universe is funny. It has an incredible way of knowing exactly what you need, exactly when you need it, delivering it in the most unique of ways…


All I wanted was a tuna sandwich from Cosi. That was it. Just a tuna sandwich. I had just finished my physical therapy appointment and was about to head home. I was extremely hungry and nausea I was experiencing the excruciating nerve and muscle pain from my spine was taking its toll on me. I was incredibly sore and exhausted. I hadn’t slept well in days. I was off balance in the worst of ways. This flare-up was unexpected and it hit me hard. It’s been a year of this pain and it’s getting really old. I felt like crap, mentally and physically. I felt defeated, deflated, broken, and weak. And I was hungry, really hungry. All I wanted was a tuna sandwich from Cosi. That was it. Just a tuna sandwich.


I pulled into Main Street at Exton relieved that Cosi didn’t appear to be busy, at least not from the outside. The nausea was beginning to make me feel dizzy. Wow, front row parking! That almost never happens to me! The stars must be aligned and the Gods must be pleased today.  


My sole purpose and focus were getting a tuna sandwich from Cosi into my belly as quickly as possible before I passed out. I dubbed this quest, “Mission Tuna Possible.” I was so close to successfully executing “Mission Tuna Possible.” So…damn…close.


I have no idea why I did what I did next because again, I cannot stress enough that the fate of the Universe, and specifically the fate of Casa de Shurkoff, depended on the success of “Mission Tuna Possible.” Hunger bitch-mode was just around the corner. Therefore, it was much to my stunning surprise when I found myself standing inside the Bath and Body Works shop.


What the hell was I doing in here? This place doesn’t sell tuna sandwiches! Seriously, why did I come in here? I don’t need anything from here. What I need is a damn tuna sandwich from Cosi!


I couldn’t explain how I got into the store. Obviously, I walked into it, but I truly have no recollection of consciously making the decision to go into Bath and Body Works. I wanted a tuna sandwich from Cosi. A tuna sandwich.


Puzzled, and trying to figure out what the hell just happened, I looked around. I needed a second to regroup. I was visibly disoriented and bringing attention to myself. The male clerk welcomed me to the store. I think I mumbled out ‘hello’ and then quickly scanned the display to my immediate right, attempting to act like I knew exactly what I was looking for. Oh, look, “3 for $12.50 – Mix and Match.” Well, thank goodness for that. Trying to give the patrons of the shop the appearance that my entrance was intentional, I quickly grabbed three items and began my rapid trudge towards the checkout counter.


As I began my approach towards the register, standing opposite of it was a young lady with a very round face, the kindest eyes, and a smile so bright I was actually glad I was still wearing my sunglasses. She was eating a snack bag of Lay’s Potato Chips. I think her shirt was yellow. She pointed at me and hollered out, “YOU! YOOOUUU!!!”


She clearly had some sort of disability. Hey listen, I’m not judging. I’m just simply stating the obvious. What disability exactly, I do not know. I walked towards her nodding my head in affirmation and smiling, “Yes, yes it’s me.” I mean, what the hell, right? It seemed like a good idea to just roll with it. She was apparently super excited to see me and that was kind of cool. I didn’t get any weird vibes from her. She didn’t pose a threat, at least I didn’t think so. And since I was already confused on how the hell I ended up in this store…oh, why not.


“IT’S YOOOUUU!” she shouted again, smiling at me. “You’re my girl! YOU ARE MY GIRL! YEAH! YEAH!!” She was beaming from ear to ear. She reached out her Lay’s Potato Chip covered hand and grabbed mine, raising them both up in the air. “YOU’RE MY GIRL!”


Her smile was infectious. Her energy was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was so beautifully pure. I was feeling energized. I was feeling amped! All I kept thinking was, “Hell yeah! I AM your girl! I’M YOUR GIRL!” I was totally loving this girl’s energy. It was like electricity was flowing through my veins, but not in a sucky way. It was more of a holy-mother-of-peaches-this-is-frickin’-awesome kind of way, but not in a weird way.


All of a sudden she stopped, lowered our hands, looked directly into my eyes and in a very matter-of-fact way stated, “You need a hug.”


You know what? She couldn’t have been more on point. I DID need a hug. I mean, I really needed a hug! It’s funny because I didn’t realize how badly I needed a hug until that moment. I needed nothing fixed. I needed no reassurance. I needed no words. I needed no pity, no sympathy, no empathy, no nothing. I just needed a hug.


Who is this young woman? How did she know? Could she just feel it? Could she see it? Was it that obvious? She was so full of light and so blissful and, dare I say, angelic? Just some stranger in Bath and Body Works. A stranger most would likely go out of their way to avoid, if we are being totally honest here. Especially with a greeting and engagement like the one she gave me. Eating a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips with greasy crumb covered hands leaning up against the register counter, hollering “You’re my girl!” from half-way across the store at some stranger while her caregiver tends to a fellow mate.


Yeah, most would likely turn the other way.


I looked directly into her beautifully large smiling eyes and quietly said, “I do. I really do need a hug.”


So she hugged me. She put her arms around me and hugged me with everything she had in her. A great big soulful hug that made me feel comforted and at peace. It made me feel healed and forgiven and full of hope. I felt deeply cared for at that moment. It was bonkers crazy! Hell, I didn’t even give a mouse’s donkey at the fact that while she stroked my hair, her sweet little hands were totally covered in chip grease, salt, and crumbs. I hear oil is good for split ends anyway.


How is it that a person can respond to a stranger’s hug with a sort of comforting heavenly, euphoric sensation? But maybe that was just it. Maybe it wasn’t so strange after all. Maybe pure, simple kindness is never, ever strange. Where this young lady may have been, as some would say, “cursed” with a disability or illness, she has been more than blessed with a beam of light that bursts out of her like no other. A hug my mind may someday fail to recall, but my heart…my heart will never, ever forget.


Brian, the Bath, and Body Works representative who had welcomed me to the store when I surprisingly entered, was observing this exchange and bless his sweet heart, was watching out to make sure both the young lady and I were safe, and that I was ok with what was happening. He must have signaled over to the caregiver because right after our embrace, both he and the caregiver apologized and thanked me. I’m not quite sure why they were thanking me. I didn’t do anything other than accept a hug I apparently so desperately needed.


As the caregiver was leading the young lady away, she was smiling and frantically waving to me while saying “See you next time!”


I smiled, waved back and said, “I sure hope so. I really hope I do. Thank you.”


I really meant it. I really hoped I’d see her again. Having the opportunity to meet someone as special and unique as this young lady…to feel so exceptionally wonderful in her presence…how could you not hope to experience that again??


I turned to put my embarrassing saving-grace “3 for $12.50 – Mix and Match” items on the counter and Brian was just standing there smiling and thanking me. Thanking me…for what? I had to ask the question because it was so bizarre me. He replied, “Most people wouldn’t have responded that way to someone like her the way you did. You were so patient with her. I used to be a caregiver, too, and it’s tough, you know? It was really cool to witness this.”


When he shared with me that he used to be a caregiver, his eyes got a little bit leaky. As you can imagine, mine got a little bit leaky, too. I can’t allow someone to have leaky eyes alone! It’s just not right.  And of course, we talked about the pet assisted visitation volunteer work Sawyer and I do through PAWS for People (.org). Ah Sawyer, my once-in-a-lifetime dog…my eight-year-old male Golden Retriever, my gentle giant, and PAWS Master’s Certified Therapy Companion.


Brian and I spent a few moments chatting with people in general. The lack of empathy that seems to grow stronger and stronger each day. The lack of patience we seem to display upon one another. Exactly when did we, as a whole, become such unbearable assholes? It’s quite displeasing to me.


As Brian finished ringing me up, we said our goodbyes and hoped to cross paths again someday. It’s always good to cross paths again with kind people, at least that’s what I think. I walked out of Bath and Body Works with an entirely different feeling than when I spontaneously appeared in it. I smiled the entire way home down the 30 Bypass. I felt reenergized, like super amazing mojo was just shot through my veins. It was such a spectacular high! I felt so great that my eyes started to leak…a whole bunch. Ugh, I’m such a sap!


The Universe is funny. It has an incredible way of knowing exactly what you need, exactly when you need it, delivering it in the most unique of ways…


And to think, all I wanted was a tuna sandwich from Cosi. That was it. Just a tuna sandwich.


“Mission Tuna Possible” was an epically successful fail.










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