When I was 18, I became friends with this guy, Todd. Todd was a riot. He would have bonfires and invite the most random people. He was one of those guys who invited people to his parties, not based on their relatability, but rather their differences…then he would sit back and watch the mayhem happen. Todd often did things to get reactions. One night he played a 45-minute video he filmed of a statue on a turntable with a cacophony of sound serving as the soundtrack. It was often hard to tell if he was being serious, or just seeing how long we’d put up with his hijinx before we called him out on his nonsense. Aside from a ton of laughs, Todd gave me one of my most treasured gifts. He introduced me to Leo Buscaglia’s book, Love. “This is one of the most powerful books on human connection that you’ll ever read, Linz,” he told me as he handed me his copy (to borrow, of course).
I took the book home, read it, and fell in love. No, not with Todd, with the book. Leo Buscaglia’s childlike wonder and approach to life appealed to me. Rather than seeing others as dangerous, or as encroaching, he saw other people as friends, comrades. And his acceptance of others was immediate, rather than wait-and-see. I’m told that at his events, he hugged people. Everyone. In my mind, Leo Buscaglia was just an oversized child, never losing innocence, never gaining cynicism. Can you imagine that? How wonderful that would be?
Every few years, I pull out my copy of Love and flip through it, reminding myself to connect with others, when I’m feeling like all I want to do is crawl inside myself. The book has given me the courage to strike up conversations with strangers when loneliness surrounded me. It’s called me out when I’m being too judgmental of others, or myself. And it’s reminded me to open my heart when I’ve wanted nothing more than to keep it closed.
Valentine’s Day, this day that’s awash with hearts and romantic love, where the divide between “those who are with someone” and “those who are not” is so prominent, take a moment to show appreciation to someone in your life, even if it’s a complete stranger. And for pete’s sake, go hug someone!