I read a story a couple of years ago that has stayed with me ever since.
Some stories have a powerful way of doing that, especially when they go straight to the heart. Today I shared this story with a dad who unexpectedly found himself tearing up while hearing it. Because of his response, I figured that was all the nudge I needed to now to tell it to you.
A few years ago a pastor named George Brantley spoke on the topic of fathering to a student body of 1,100 at a Christian college in Texas. After spending two days with them he ended by offering a “safe hug” to anyone who needed one.
It was said that, “What happened next was both tragic and astounding.”
One by one, hundreds of young men and women made their way to the front of the auditorium while many stood in line for over three hours, all to experience a “safe hug” from this man. Apparently there were so many who sobbed on George’s shoulders that it literally ruined his jacket and shirt.
Think of the power of that exchange and what this story signifies. There was such a powerful longing for the strong arms of a safe man to wrap around them that they waited for minutes and even hours just to receive this small deposit into their emotional bank account.
In a matter of only two days this father figure so impacted these college students that they found themselves drawn to his authentic love and gift of safe touch. This was a father who showed up and was present, even with kids who weren’t his own.
All he did was offer to put his arms around them in a gesture that affirmed and communicated love. The result? They lined up and waited their turn. For hours. All for a hug.
My friend Paul Young is like that. Some would say that his hugs heal. I count myself among them and can affirm that his hugs have definitely been healing for me.
Safe hugs have a way of doing that, even without verbiage. They touch the depths of who we are and warmly say that it’s going to be okay, and more importantly, that you’re worth loving.
That is the epitome of what being present looks and feels like.
Dad, your daughter needs your physical, loving arms around her. Daily.
Did you know that the research overwhelmingly confirms that daughters who are securely attached to their fathers (which is a fancy way of saying that a dad is dialed in and attentive while being close enough to emotionally engage and physically connect with his daughter) have:
- greater academic success
- stronger abilities to handle stress
- are more vocationally competent,
- are less anxious and insecure about relationships
- are more satisfied with their appearance and body weight
- are more likely to create and to maintain emotionally intimate, fulfilling relationships with men
- and the list goes on
And if my words aren’t enough to underscore this truth, listen to a couple of responses I heard when I posted these words on social media this week: “Dad, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being present.”
Elaina wrote, “I can’t click ‘like’ enough times!”
Bonnie wrote, “This needs to be shared OVER AND OVER.”
Dad, she doesn’t need you to be perfect. She just needs you to be present. And this is the kind of “present” where you show up in physical form with hugs ready. No words required.
Ready. Set. Hug!
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