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The first time I heard the phrase "Kinder, gentler nation" was in the 1980's.
It was a Republican slogan and I knew even then that it was mostly bullcrap.
I knew it was propaganda designed to hide the greedy, selfish warmongers who wanted the world to believe that they were going to make things better.
But from Reagan to Bush I and Bush II-it was all lies and bullcrap.
Yet, once I became a father, I began to give the phrase new meaning. I began to become a kinder, gentler person with the love I gave and received from my son. Indignant morons can still get a verbal beatdown, but mostly I avoid confrontations where possible.
And I hold dearest the fond memories from when life itself was all about love and beauty
The days of my very own childhood.
It was cold in Chicago when I was a child, and since my fortitude against the elements had yet to develop, it seemed even colder then.
I remember playing outside in the wintertime until my feet and hands were numb and frozen. Running in the house, my mother was always there to rub them until they got warm and to make me feel better.
And she always had a hug ready.
My mother's hugs could make a bitter, cold day seem warm and turn any frown upside down. Her powerful hugs provided comfort for all things wrong and simply made the world make sense.
When she died, there was no hug strong enough to comfort me. For years, I felt empty inside, and even when my heart finally began to heal, there remained a place that couldn't be reached.
Some years later, I found myself in my house alone and sick. My girlfriend was out of town and trying to play "Macho Man," I neglected to call on friends or family. In the middle of the night I awakened, and in my illness-induced stupor, I began to search for my mother to comfort me.
Once my mind cleared and I realized that it was years after my mother's death, my eyes filled with tears. Then, my mind flooded with all the goodness of a son's memories of his mother. The warmth of those memories surrounded me and held me like a hug.
That hug felt real to me. And it became real, along with its healing properties. The place that previously couldn't be reached was touched and filled by the goodness of my memories.
That hug was powerful, helping me in the healing process and fortifying me to be more receptive to the power of hugs.
After my last breakup, I was also carrying the burden of professional turmoil. My heart was broken and my life was in disarray. I knew instinctively that I had to be in Chicago where there was an abundance of loved ones to help me shoulder my burden.
Being around my friends and family gave me comfort, but when I held one of my best friend's daughters, I literally felt the ache and the pain and the stress and the strain melt away.
Sydney Paige was two at the time, and the sweetest little bundle of joy from heaven. She fell asleep in my arms with her little head on my shoulder and her heart on my chest. The warmth of my goddaughter, along with the rhythm of her heartbeat and breathing, made my heavy load light and made me smile deeply.
That was a powerful hug.
That was also a powerful lesson.
I hugged her mother, and I hugged her father. I hugged my sisters and I hugged my brothers. I hugged everyone I knew and when I was leaving, I hugged the airline attendant because she gave me an extra pillow.
I began to once again cherish every hug and relish in the power of something so simple, yet so amazing.
I began to realize the power I had to impact lives.
When friends or family are down, I know that whatever else they may need, a hug will do the most good and Dr. Darryl has plenty of them.
Call me sappy if you want to, but that just means that you probably need a hug your damned self.
The beauty of hugging is that every time you give one, you receive one in return. I give the comfort of hugs because I find comfort in the hugs I receive.
Sometimes, I find that comfort in my mother's daughters. And sometimes I find it in my cousins or the wives of my best friends. I've found that the hug of a mother is deeper and stronger than most hugs, but that all hugs are powerful.
And so I hug my son. And I hug his mother.
I hug my brothers. I hug my friends. And, thank God I am a part of the lovingness group of people on the planet--Blacks, with all of their unresolved pain and unattended issues, still greet friends with a shake and a hug, exchanging power, which grows exponentially.
They tell you to do it in church and sometimes, you comply. But, today, you don't need to be in church--at least not in the building. While standing and living in the universal church of the world--earth--which is God's house for real, give somebody a hug.
Believe in the power of the universal gift that keeps on giving.
Dammit, it's better than chicken soup.
The song says that what the world needs now is love sweet love and it's true.
And love begins with and is sustained by hugs.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology "Notes From The Edge." He released his first mini-movie, "Crack," and will soon release his first full-length documentary. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at