Intelligence | Stevehein.com
The Hugging Judge
Jack Canfield and Mark V. Hansen
Don't bug me! Hug me! - Bumper Sticker
|Lee Shapiro is a retired judge.
He is also one of the most genuinely loving
people we know. At one point in his career, Lee
realized that love is the greatest power there
is. As a result, Lee became a hugger. He began
offering everybody a hug. His colleagues dubbed
him "the hugging judge" (as opposed to
the hanging judge, we suppose). The bumper
sticker on his car reads, "Don't bug me! Hug
About six years ago Lee created what he calls his
Hugger Kit. On the outside it reads "A heart
for a hug." The inside contains thirty
little red embossed hearts with stickum on the
back. Lee will take out his Hugger Kit, go around
to people and offer them a little red heart in
exchange for a hug.
Lee has become so well known for this that he is
often invited to keynote conferences and
conventions, where he shares his message of
unconditional love. At a conference in San
Francisco, the local news media challenged him by
saying, "It is easy to give out hugs here in
the conference to people who self-selected to be
here. But this would never work in the real
They challenged Lee to give away some hugs on the
streets of San Francisco. Followed by a
television crew from the local news station, Lee
went out onto the street. First he approached a
woman walking by. "Hi, I'm Lee Shapiro, the
hugging judge. I'm giving out these hearts in
exchange for a hug." "Sure," she
replied. "Too easy", challenged the
local commentator. Lee looked around. He saw a
meter maid who was being given a hard time by the
owner of a BMW to whom she was giving a ticket.
He marched up to her, camera crew in tow, and
said, "You look like you could use a hug.
I'm the hugging judge and I'm offering you
one." She accepted. The television
commentator threw down one final challenge.
"Look, here comes a bus. San Francisco bus
drivers are the toughest, crabbiest, meanest
people in the whole town. Let's see you get him
to hug you." Lee took the challenge. As the
bus pulled up to the curb, Lee said, "Hi,
I'm Lee Shapiro, the hugging judge. This has got
to be one of the most stressful jobs in the whole
I'm offering hugs to people today to lighten the
load a little. Would you like one?" The
six-foot-two, 230-pound bus driver got out of his
seat, stepped down and said, "Why not?"
Lee hugged him, gave him a heart and waved
goodbye as the bus pulled out. The TV crew was
speechless. Finally, the commentator said,
"I have to admit, I'm very impressed."
One day Lee's friend Nancy Johnston showed up on
his doorstep. Nancy is a professional clown and
she was wearing her clown costume, makeup and
all. "Lee, grab a bunch of your Hugger Kits
and let's go out to the home for the
When they arrived at the home, they started
giving out balloon hats, hearts and hugs to the
patients. Lee was uncomfortable. He had never
before hugged people who were terminally ill,
severely retarded, or quadraplegic. It was
definitely a stretch. But after a while it became
easier with Nancy and Lee acquiring an entourage
of doctors, nurses and orderlies who followed
them from ward to ward.
After several hours they entered the last ward.
These were 34 of the worst cases Lee had seen in
his life. The feeling was so grim it took his
heart away. But out of their commitment to share
their love and to make a difference, Nancy and
Lee started working their way around the room
followed by the entourage of medical staff, all
of whom by now had hearts on their collars and
balloon hats on their heads.
Finally, Lee came to the last person, Leonard.
Leonard was wearing a big white bib which he was
drooling on. Lee looked at Leonard dribbling onto
his bib and said, "Let's go, Nancy, there's
no way we can get through to this person."
Nancy replied, "C'mon, Lee. He's a fellow
human being, too, isn't he?" Then she placed
a funny balloon hat on his head. Lee took one of
his little red hearts and placed it on Leonard's
bib. He took a deep breath, leaned down and gave
Leonard a hug.
All of a sudden Leonard began to squeal,
"Eeeeehh! Eeeeeehh!" Some of the other
patients in the room began to clang things
together. Lee turned to the staff for some sort
of explanation only to find that every doctor,
nurse, and orderly was crying. Lee asked the head
nurse, "What's going on?"
Lee will never forget what she said: "This
is the first time in 23 years we've ever seen
How simple it is to make a difference in the
lives of others.