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What gave birth to “May I hug you?” What on earth makes a supposedly sane person decide to go out there and ask strangers if she could hug them?

Well, let’s go back to the beginning. It’s always a good idea to start at the beginning.

How I found myself in TJ Max on that Tuesday afternoon is another story to be found somewhere, I believe, in the tale about the $36.00 bra.

But there I was. Hot, irritated, and frustrated, weaving between rows and rows of dresses and as I rounded a corner, nearly taking out a lovely young Muslim woman , fingering dresses with a sort of resigned look on her face.

I recognized the look. Yes! A kindred spirit in search of the perfect dress. Never at a lack on how to strike up a conversation I complimented her on the very pretty scarf she was wearing – black net with blue silvery bits and asked her what it was called.

“A scarf,” she told me. (Duh…) and the ball was rolling. We chatted about this and that and the price of tea (not, but you get the idea) and in due course I apologized for the “putting all Muslims into the same box” mentality of some Americans.

She smiled, took my hand and said “it’s okay. They don’t know me.”

“May I hug you?” I asked.

Her smile got wider. “I was going to ask you the same thing.”

So after hugs and just holding each other and being still, we parted ways.

I’ll probably never see her again but this I know –

She set me on this journey I am on right now.

So, why didn’t I say? “Let’s go and have coffee?” Or why didn’t I ask to exchange phone numbers? Why didn’t I arrange to meet her again? “Why didn’t I reach out a little more?

I don’t know. Bottom line, I didn’t. My loss.

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