Tuesday, 23 February 2016


There was a fashion a little while ago to offer free hugs. I guess it was a reaction against the sense of isolation that so many feel these days. I remember seeing someone with a sign offering 'free hugs' as I was walking through Birmingham city centre one day.

I was reminded of that recently when reading Padraig O'Tuama's inspiring and challenging book "In the Shelter". In the book O'Tuama gently reflects on some of the key ways in which we engage with life. He points out some of the many questions that we ought to be considering. Life is full of questions with which we should engage.

However, I think that possibly my favourite little section of this book is a paragraph about hugging. O'Tuama writes: The Ireland I grew up in was not an Ireland that knew much about hugging. Maybe it was particularly true for Irish boys; I don't know whether it was different for girls. One Irish way of saying 'hug' is duine a theannadh le do chroi - to squeeze somebody with your heart. It's lovely but I never knew it. That first time I was asked for a hug and I got one - even though I didn't know I had one to either give or take - I found myself thinking 'So this is what arms are for'.

Who might you squeeze with your heart?

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