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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Paging Dr. Leo

One of my favorite authors is Dr. Leo Buscaglia. However, it wasn’t always that way. I remember when I was pre-teen, my mother watching The Phil Donahue. His guest was Dr. Leo Buscaglia, who taught a class on Love, a first of its kind, at USC. My mother had read many of his books and was an avid fan.  As I watched the show, I was puzzled by him. Here was this man talking passionately about how we all need to show we love each other, both strangers and family. He had walked through the streets of Chicago (where the Donahue show was filmed) wearing a button that said something to the effect “Hugs for free.”  I was positive he would be avoided like the plague in such a big city. To my surprise, he regaled how many people stopped him in the street to give him a hug. He couldn’t contain his joy, his arms flapping about, looking like he would burst through the TV screen. Frankly, I was embarrassed by him. I shook my head, dismissing him as a kooky guy.
                Years later, out of the blue, my mother sent me Dr Leo’s book Living, Loving and Learning. It sat on my shelf for a while--I was still questioning why she sent it to me in the first place. Everything was fine in my marriage and we were expecting a baby. One day, nothing was good on the TV. With a sigh, I picked up his book, which was collection of his lectures on his favorite subject, love.  As it turned out, much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the book.  I found him to be funny, entertaining and wise. I literally could feel his love for life pouring through the pages.
 Why was it now I appreciated him, when before I didn’t want anything to do with him?
  As I ponder this, I have come to the conclusion it has to do with timing. When I first saw Dr. Leo on TV, I was at an awkward age where EVERYTHING embarrassed me.  Also, my mother was a fan of his, so that made him completely uncool.
One of the many things he taught me is as you share and give love, it grows and comes back to you.   After reading his book, I put his lesson to practice. No, I didn’t run around town wearing a “hugs for free” button! If I encountered someone at work whose dress I liked, I told her so. Spontaneously, I would grab my son and give him kisses on top of his head (which I must say I need to get on my tip toes to reach his head now!) By sharing joy, I would see their positive reactions and that would feed my soul again.   
I believe that’s the reason my mother sent it to me-- without it I would have missed many happy life experiences. Though Dr. Leo is no longer with us, his lessons live on. I like to think he’s found a place in Heaven with a large forest that is in perpetual autumn, surrounded by all the foliage he could ever want. What do I mean by that? I guess you’ll have to read one of his books to find out!

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