I am so thrilled to introduce my wonderful friend Shabana that lives across the globe. I have spoken of her a few times throughout my year of hugs and she asked to write a post on how my year has affected her. I love her and I know you will too.
My name is Shabana. I live in Bahrain. It’s a small island nation in the Arabian Gulf. It’s a Muslim country and societal norms dictate men and women shaking hands a taboo, let alone hugging each other. (The high school I went to has a rule that boys and girls, boys and boys, and girls and girls are forbidden to shake hands longer than 30 seconds. No, I’m not kidding.) So obviously, majority of the people here don’t hug (unless there’s been a huge calamity or someone in the family died.) Women do the traditional air-kiss (muah-muah on either side of the cheeks in case you didn’t know) when they meet but hugging as a greeting? No way! And here I was, a closet-hugger. I looooove hugs. I come from a family where my mom hugged us three children a lot. But the sad truth is, it stopped there. Hugs from mom. That’s it.
Which is why I thought that what Melinda was doing was so brave. I met Melinda at an online blogging forum. I was intrigued by the name of her blog- myyearofhugs.com and clicked on it. I was truly amazed to see that this lady was on a mission to hugging as many people as she could everyday, and document those hugs as well as her day, every single day, on her blog. I mean, I felt awkward hugging my friends and family and here’s this lady who asks complete strangers for hugs! I loved it!
I read her blog regularly and all the little life lessons she was learning along the way. And I really, really wanted to do something similar. (My wildest aspirations included putting up a booth giving free hugs but thoughts of the government locking me up for being so ‘open’ killed those ideas quite quickly.) I knew I had to start small. So I started hugging my family more. And friends. And soon enough, they caught on. I’m happy to say that now when friends meet me (men included) we hug, as opposed to a dry business-like handshake which is the norm. My younger brother hugs me quite often now, which is really saying something as he’s the shyest in the family. I even send out lots of online hugs (and get many in return!). I’m trying to hug more and more people everyday and it feels fantastic! And all this is thanks to Melinda!