Thursday, May 28, 2009

The One That Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand

Those of you who are part of Mormonland may know this man, Brad Wilcox. He teaches teacher education at Brigham Young University. He has been a mission president in Santiago, Chile for three years. But he is perhaps most sought after as a speaker for youth. I have to admit that I don’t always love those guys…the popular youth speakers. They often seem to have a gimmick that makes them popular.

But, Brad Wilcox. He came to Orange County a year and a half or so ago, and spoke to about 200 youth in our area. My own kids were there, so I was hoping that it would be good. But it wasn’t good… it was awesome! I can’t tell you what he talked about. I don’t remember. But I decided something, listening to him. I knew I needed to be more like him, because he was so good at showing how much he loved everyone. And while I am still not the best at this, I haven’t forgotten. I have been trying to incorporate some of his skills.

The most striking thing was after his talk was over. Because he had made everyone listening feel like they were his new best friend, they all lined up afterward to shake his hand. I was sitting on the stand, and I got to see close-up how this worked: A young lady would come up to him and reach out her hand to shake his. He would take her hand, open it up, and pour in some M&Ms from a giant bag in his hand, as he asked her name. M&M’s. Brilliant! A gimmick? Maybe, but M&M’s totally work on me. I don’t eat them much, but I can still remember a fantasy I had as a five-year-old playing in my dad’s glass shop in Mt. Shasta (yup, playing in a glass shop…these are the same parents that let me ride to Arizona once in the back of a pickup truck, remember… simpler days?) and my dad would get these giant boxes shipped to the shop that contained windshields. I pictured being in one of those enormous boxes, and having M&M’s poured in to fill the box. I also imagined being locked in a Mothers Cookie truck. Some things never change…

So anyway, first the M&M’s. And then Brother Wilcox threw his arms around the girl in a big hug, and told her that he loved her. And he meant it. And she knew he meant it. I watched him do it over and over. At one point he turned to me and handed me his bag of M&M’s (picture the loaves and the fishes...those M&M’s made it through the whole afternoon) and asked if I would make sure everyone got some, and he turned his full attention to the business of making each of those kids feel like a million bucks.

I have spent most of my life not being a big fan of hugging. However, since I have been working in the youth program at church for the last three years, I have stepped outside my comfort zone, and I am now officially a hugger. I have decided that it was never hugging I didn’t like. It is just that I am not a fan of the Awkward Hug. There are many versions. The particular one I was utilizing was the Overly Careful Hug, combined with my personal nemesis…the Awkward Pat. The worst Awkward Hugs come from not being properly committed to the process.

I have gotten better, with practice. The over/under question I will leave up to you. But you have to hug like you mean it. My aim is that the recipient of the hug will think to him/herself, “Wow, she really likes me.” And sometimes as a little added bonus, you hold the hug just about two seconds longer than they expect, add a completely unself-conscious I Love You, and they think, “Hmm… do you think she… likes me likes me?” No, I don’t. Not like that (except for you, DK).

I am certainly no Brad Wilcox. But I am working on it.


Nan said...

Back in the day when there was seminary symposium, I always made sure to hit a Brad Wilcox breakout session. He had an incredible ability to connect individually even as he stood in front of a microphone with thousands at his feet.

Carolyn said...

You'd think with all my years in Utah I would have heard him speak. But no. I guess I'll never get the chance now.

I'll have to make do with your wonderful description. (Which may be better than the real thing.)

Debbie said...

I'm so sad because my daughter went with me to the author signing a few weeks ago and she really wanted to get his kid book signed but he wasn't there at the schedule time. Oh well, he's still awesome.

I've always avoided the hug too but what a point you make. Maybe I just gotta work on the type. I think I'm having an ahah moment.

Della Hill said...

I actually think his brother was my seminary teacher.
I went to Provo High, which is 2 blocks away from BYU campus, and one year had brother Wilcox as my teacher. He was awesome too.
I'd love to hear him speak.
I also love m&ms.

Shewinn8 said...

I so relate to the hugging thing. I have never been a big hugger outside of hugging my husband and kids until I served in two callings. YW and RS pres. It just became something I felt directed to do. I couldn't believe how much it meant to some people until I realized that those extra seconds and the realness of the hug made a huge difference, in their life and in mine. From time to time I still feel prompted and sometimes it seems a little weird when I begin (i.e. the korean lady who cuts my hair) but when it is happening it just feels right. There must be a lot of hugging in heaven
btw: Brad Wilcox spoke last month at my daughters graduation from BYU at the school of education. I know what you mean. He just oozes love and excitement. I also attended BYU in the education program myself and he was in quite a few of my classes. He was just that way too then.