How many times have you or someone you love said, “I could sure use a hug?” Long, long ago, in an ancient time, like back last February, we didn’t think anything about hugging someone or at least shaking their hand. Some may have even had the audacity, not to mention courage, to drink out of someone else’s glass. Well, that was then and this is now. February seems like such a long time ago. How our lives and our customs have changed since then. Now, with the President and First Lady testing positive, we are reminded that no one is safe. Try to shake someone’s hand and they may shake their head. Try to hug someone and you could get maced in the face. Before COVID-19 changed how we act, we thought nothing about wrapping our arms around someone and squeezing them until they coughed up a hairball. Oh, I’m sorry that was my cat that did that. She is no longer with us, but before you get all wound up that is not why. She died of old age. Sorry, I digress. Now we can’t even get close enough to others to give them a hug, even if we want. It is hard to hug someone from six-feet away. You can’t even shake their hand from that distance, unless you have extremely long arms. Even then, we aren’t supposed to touch. If you’ve tested positive for the virus, or even been exposed to it, you may feel like the lepers of old. If they walked down the street, they had to carry a sign or cry out “Unclean, unclean!” If this year had a theme song, it could be the old rock song, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”

Here’s an alternative. Have you seen those guys who play air guitar? They don’t actually have a guitar in their hands, but while being accompanied by recorded music, they act like they are playing one. They run, jump, fall down to their knees, and make guitar-player ugly faces all while reeling off a riff. Amazingly, they never miss a single note. They even give out awards for this stuff.

My third-grade teacher gave me a paddling (not an award) for doing that same thing. I was a pretty accomplished air musician as a child, and not only on guitar, but no one appreciated that talent back then. In fifth grade, I blew an air trumpet along with one of Louie Armstrong’s records. The teacher, who put the record on in the first place, was not amused either. I, on the other hand, still find it amusing and ironic that her name was Armstrong too. I wish she had swung an air paddle! Hang on, I’m going somewhere with this.

Now, in our socially-distanced society, we have air handshakes and air hugs...from six-feet away. I’d rather play a real instrument, and I’d rather have a real hug or handshake, but it’s better than nothing. While some “non-huggers” may be excited about this new ban on closeness, the human touch is important and necessary. I have; however, experienced hugs from certain people that made me a little uncomfortable. So, maybe air hugs, sometimes, especially in the midst of a pandemic, aren’t so bad after all. While there really is no substitute for the human touch, giving air hugs and handshakes is at least an attempt to let others know we care about them. After all, God doesn’t wrap physical arms around us, but He does give Spirit hugs. By the way, spirit and wind are from the same word, so a Spirit hug is similar to an air hug. Need a hug? Here’s one from a distance. Stay safe and well.

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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