Have you hugged someone today?

Its a peaceful Sunday morning - have already taken my walk although

it is pretty cold today.

I ran into my neighbors - Akram and Safiya.

Safiya actually means "best friend" and Akram means "most generous."

We hugged as we always do when we meet and then talked about how we

would bring peace to Iraq. 

Safiya then told me about that day on January 25, 1999 when a

US missile was accidentally dropped on their neighborhood.

In all sixty five houses were destroyed, over 70 of their neighbors were injured,

and four were killed.

All four of the casualties were children, one of them was their nephew.

Safiya said, "We have to bring peace to all the children around the world.

They are the innocent.

We have to beat the swords into plowshares."

We hugged again and we all went on our way.

Do you remember the last time you hugged somebody or somebody hugged you?

I’ve met people whose answer was “I can’t remember,”

because they probably came from family’s with LDOA

- limited display of affection.

A few of these very same friends are now huggers – especially since

they’ve come to know me.

I come from a long lineage of huggers.

In my mind no one should be deprived of a hug,

especially when it comes to sharing a moment of joy or grief.

Have you read the quote that says we all need four hugs a day for survival,

eight for maintenance and 12 for growth?

These numbers may be scientifically inaccurate, but the following story is true.

On Oct. 17, 1995 Kyrie and Brielle were born to Heidi and Paul Jackson,

at The Medical Center of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, Mass.

At just 28 weeks of age the twins were a full 12 weeks ahead of their due date.

The standard hospital practice back was to place any set of multiple births

in their separate incubators.

This was thought to reduce the risk of infection.

So the two tiny Jackson girls were placed in separate incubators in the hospital’s

new neonatal intensive care unit.

One of the twins began to gain weight quickly and tended to sleep calmly.

Kyrie's birth weight had been a mere two pounds, three ounces at birth.

But she quickly began thriving and gaining weight. Brielle, her twin however;

had many complications especially with breathing, and her little heart was

also having heart rate problems causing her oxygen level in her blood to be low.

Brielle was very slow to gain any weight.

On Nov. 12, less than a month later, Brielle the tiniest twin’s condition

suddenly became critical.

Her half-inch thick, tiny arms and legs began to turn bluish-grey in color due

to a drop in oxygen.

As she gasped for air, her heart rate became erratic and it kept spiking higher,

and higher.

All that her parents could do was watch and pray, terrified that their little angel

could die.

That morning Gayle Kasparian, their main Nurse, after exhausting all the

conventional remedies she knew decided to try a procedure that she

had read about.

A procedure that was common in parts of Europe – but untried in the US.

After all she was quoted as saying, “Desperate moments called for

desperate measures.”

After getting all the necessary approvals and with the parent’s permission

the nurse placed the twins in the same incubator.

The nurse made sure that they were facing each other and laid them as close

as possible to one another.

The article said that no sooner had the nurse closed the incubator door,

when the tiniest of the two, Brielle snuggled closer into Kyrie.

And then a “miraculous” and incredible thing happened – tiny Brielle began

to calm down.

Within minutes, her blood-oxygen saturation readings increased,

and a more normal pinkish color began to come back throughout her body.

As she calmed down enough to fall asleep, her twin Kyrie wrapped her tiny

left arm around her smaller sister.

Brielle's heart rate began to stabilize and her temperature rose back up to

normal and remained that way.

Several weeks later the Jackson twins were both physically fit to be able

to go home.

The article said that the parents continued to place them in the same bed,

and that their twins continued to thrive.

The photo of Kyrie hugging her little sister Brielle was titled "the Rescuing Hug,"

and the story appeared in both Reader’s Digest and Life magazine.

It made this tiny pair of twins famous (they are now two healthy fourteen year olds).

But more importantly their story of survival spurred a growing interest

in the research of medical co-bedding of all critically ill preemies.

This practice of developmental neo-natal care is used in NICUs around

the world today.

It involves many aspects of the critically ill baby, from helping the babies feel

more secure and developing more normal sleep patterns, to decreasing

stimulation from noise, lights or procedures that come from repeated

handling of them.

Research into developmental care also uncovered many other benefits

for these tiny infants; including much shorter hospital stays,

fewer complications, improved weight gain and enhanced bonding

between the babies and the parents.

One article I read about ‘hugging” that researchers at the

University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill did stated that “cuddling”

with our spouses was good for lowering our blood pressure,

helped strengthen our immune systems, helped to reduces stress,

tended to improve our sleep and was even a natural antidote for depression.

Just like in the article about the Jackson twins, the word "miraculous,"

being associated with the benefits of their tiny hugs.

We need to come to understand the “miraculous” difference we can make

to one another when we make it a point to come in contact with each other.

It is through our small gestures; our hugs, a warm handshake,

a pat on the back, a smile, a peck or a kiss that we all honor,

and affirm one another.

It’s not difficult to learn - we’re all born with this amazing capability!

Tiny Brielle and her twin sister Kyrie knew this long before they were conscious of it.

Reading this article made me remember a book I read years ago written

by Pope John Paul II, a book about how we function as people,

called "Theology of the Body."

"As human beings”, he wrote, “we are capable of participating in the very

humanity of other people, and because of this, every human being

can be our neighbor.”

As we look to the upcoming holidays try to keep from getting

caught up in the commercialization and the frenzy.

Don’t forget what these holidays are really about.

Be ever mindful of the fact that our earthy destiny is to LIVE and LOVE

in the interpersonal horizon of GIVING and RECEIVING.

I loved this story… tiny Kyrie's hug not only embraced Brielle

but really touched me.

It helped me remember that we all have an innate responsibility

to our loved ones - one another – our colleagues –

and our neighbors here and around the world.

That by embracing them we can transform a LIFE.

Make it a great dia!

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