The word “hug” symbolizes friendship and love. A hug is extremely powerful. And yet, in this age of social distancing, people are not hugging each other, fearing the spread of the coronavirus.

People hug each other upon meeting up, when saying goodbye, when mending broken ties, to congratulate, or to help alleviate one’s sorrow. A simple hug can help express so many varieties of feelings and wishes.

I remember watching a video many years ago, showing a group of young people carrying banners of “Free Hugs” and walking around Madison, Wisconsin. Many members of the public, who saw the signs, came forward to hug them. These moments were captured on tape with a beautiful song in the background. It was amazing to see the smiles on people’s faces, as they voluntarily hugged strangers, forming a powerful human bond. There have been many such “Free Hugs” initiatives across the country, and in fact, in many countries.

But then came the life-threatening coronavirus, and the discovery of the concept of social distancing. People went from hugging and shaking hands to even avoiding fist-bumps and elbow-bumps. Except among members of one’s household and people with intimate relationships, the social gestures of hugs and handshakes have become almost nonexistent. Masks and gloves have taken over, even hiding people’s smiles behind facial coverings.

How long would this last? I do not know. When will we go back to hugging our friends and the people we like? I do not know.

I am an optimist. I do believe that no matter how big the challenges, we will overcome all those, and go back to leading normal lives again. We will, once again, hug each other.

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