Recently, I was going through a huge binder full of hundreds of letters I sent home over the course of my LDS mission. The following is an excerpt from a letter dated September 15, 2005:
We had a number of people come to Church on Sunday. One was a very eccentric guy named Dean. Dean is definitely a product of the 60's. He was wearing a baby blue polyester suit and has this wispy hippie beard that makes you think his name should be Valley or Rain. After sacrament meeting, I asked Dean what he thought about the meeting, and we began to talk about God and things of that nature. He began to tell me about a gift God had given him, a gift unique to him alone. Feeling a good mission story coming on, I asked him what that was.
"God has given me," he began, "what I call a Heaven Hug."
"Hm," I said.
At length I asked, "So, what is a Heaven hug?"
"A Heaven hug is what I do when people are having a bad day. I've had men and women tell me that when I give them a hug, no matter how bad they're doing, it makes them feel better. I just put my arms around them, rub their backs a bit, and all their problems just go away."
"Hm," I said. "That's-" I strained for the word, "neat." I tried to make it sound sincere, but I think my attempt fell flat.
He went on, "Now it's not a gross thing or anything. I just give them a hug like you would your own mother, and I give guys a 'guy hug.' You know what a 'guy hug' is, don't you?"
"Yes," I said hastily, trying to avoid what I thought might be coming. It didn't work.
"A guy hug," he said as he rounded the pew and threw his right arm around me and frew me close, "is sort of like this. You know, we're buddies, we're pals. It's not gay or anything. Sometimes I'll do a full-on Heaven Hug with guys, but they're usually more comfortable with this."
Comfortable was pretty far from where I was at the time--but he went on. "Yep, I'm able to just wipe people's cares away. You want an example?"
Being pretty sure that I had just gotten one, I promptly assured him that I didn't have any worries or cares, that I wasn't in need of a Heaven Hug at that point in time, but I'd let him know if I ever did. (It was vaguely similar to when contacts told us they'd give us a call to learn more about the church.)
Dean, though, was insistent. "Well, here, just grab my hand," he said as he clutched at my hand. Totally uncomfortable, I tried to shake his hand like any missionary might. I was desperate to be done with the whole conversation.
"No. Don't shake. Just feel."
So there I was, standing in the middle of the now-empty chapel, grasping hands with a crazy old dude. In the back of my mind I thought, "Wow, I don't think I'll ever sin again if I can just get out of here."
"Do you feel that?" Dean asked.
I replied honestly. "Yep. I feel it." I was feeling something. It just wasn't anything that remotely resembled peace. I dropped my hands promptly into my pockets. No one has a blank check to hold my hands. Ever.