“I Like Warm Hugs”

by Roger A. Shake, CFP®, RLP®, CeFT® May 2022

In 2013 Disney released the animated movie ‘Frozen.’ It’s the story of a princess, Anna, setting out on a quest to locate her estranged sister, Elsa, whose frozen powers have unwittingly imprisoned their kingdom in endless winter. Anna is accompanied by Kristoff (an iceman), Sven (Kristoff’s trusty reindeer), and Olaf (a fun-loving snowman). I know about these things, because I am “Papa” to our granddaughter Isla, who loves and knows everything about ‘Frozen.’ In mid-April we were in Savannah, Georgia to celebrate Isla’s 5th birthday. The party theme, of course, was ‘Frozen.’ I was the surprise guest dressed as Olaf, and in keeping with my role had worked hard to memorize some of Olaf’s better lines such as…

“I don’t have a skull…or bones.”

“An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.”

“Hey we were just talking about you! All good things, all good things!”

“Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.”

And my favorite, “I like warm hugs.”

The party was great fun! The joy, laughter, wide eyed wonder, and energy of 4 and 5 year old’s can be exhilarating and exhausting. Emotionally, I found myself in a very strange place. You see, the week before Isla’s party, my Dad died. His death was not unexpected, but I’m not sure you are ever ready for the death of someone you love. Dad had been well cared for in a nursing home for the last four years and mercifully, the end came quickly. Over a three-day period, he went from nursing home to hospital to hospice care. All six children and spouses were there, and Dad was able to hear from all the grandchildren. Quite a blessing, really.

Me and my dad

I don’t know about you, but I find it challenging to hold two different worlds at the same time. For me those two worlds were the grief over the death of my Dad and the joy of Isla turning 5 years old.

I’ve kept a gratitude journal over the years. For me, journaling is a lot like flossing, I’m really good at it – sometimes. The benefits of journaling and expressing gratitude are well researched and documented. Dr. Robert A. Emmons writes in The Little Book of Gratitude, “that most people intuitively know when they should feel grateful, but often genuine gratitude remains a transient and unpredictable occurrence. Once we know why and how it works, real gratitude can become a regular response. What gratitude does is amplify, rescue, and connect.”

  1. Gratitude amplifies: The good that we see in ourselves, in others, in the world, is multiplied and magnified through a grateful outlook. Gratitude locks in this goodness, sealing it deep into our being so it appreciates in value. We’ve all heard of paranoia, but what about pronoia? This is the belief that others are conspiring to help us. Grateful people are pronoids, expecting and seeing benevolence in the world, always aware of and easily sharing their gratitude, amplifying the good in themselves and in others.
  2. Gratitude rescues: Left to their own devices, our minds tend to hijack each and every opportunity for happiness. Negativity, entitlement, resentfulness, forgetfulness, ungratefulness all clamor for our attention. Whether stemming from our own thoughts or the daily news headlines, we are exposed to a constant drip of negativity. Doom and gloom are on the horizon as financial fears, relational turmoil, global conflicts, and health challenges threaten us. We are worn down by it, emotionally and physically exhausted. To offset this constant negativity, we need to create and take in positive experiences. Gratitude is our best weapon, an ally to counter these internal and external threats that rob us of sustainable joy. Gratitude rescues us from thieves that derail our opportunity for happiness and gets us back on track to contentment and inner peace.
  3. Gratitude connects: We cannot and do not live alone. Human relationships would unravel without gratitude. This is the moral cement, the all-purpose glue, the emotional filling that squeezes into the cracks between people, strengthening and solidifying these relationships. Without gratitude we’d be in relational ruin. Organizations, families, societies would crumble.

As I looked back over my journal from almost two months ago, I saw that it was possible to hold different worlds (Dad’s death and Isla’s birthday) at the same time. With a smile and tears I read my scribbled notes of gratitude for…

  • A Dad who loved me and others well
  • Amazing siblings and their spouses who stepped up and leaned into difficult things
  • Caring and gentle hospice professionals that eased the pain of letting go
  • The wonder, energy, and innocence of children
  • The sound and feeling of a big belly laugh at any age
  • Unconditional love

So, what are you grateful for? Let me encourage you to take a few minutes, right now, and reflect on your life. Jot down the name(s) of someone in your life for whom you are grateful and why. Can I ask you to go one step further? Take the time to actually write them a note of gratitude – not a text, not an email, but an actual note. I promise, this will be good for you AND wonderful for them. It might even feel “like a warm hug.”


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