On September 11, 2012, I woke up, went to the gym, took a train to a client, coordinated a few interviews, edited some materials and worked on two events coming up in the following week.  It was an average day for me, nothing spectacular. I presided over a Les Dames d’Escoffier board meeting that night and joined my husband for dinner at Eataly with a visiting colleague from South Carolina. My cell phone had one text message from a wine industry colleague. The message said “Peace be with you.” I responded “Thank you! How are you today?”  He responded “ALIVE!”

The message didn’t hit me immediately, and then later it sank in when I mentioned it to my husband.  My friend worked at Windows on the World and lost many of his colleagues on September 11, 20o1. He survived by not being at the wrong place at the wrong time. And the pain and memories will live with him forever.

I sent him another text with more compassion this time then just “How are you?” and I felt bad for seeming insensitive.  What was I thinking? Have I “moved on” that much from the agony of one of the worst days in American history in my life that I was too preoccupied with truly day to day nothing-isms to think about someone whose life was changed when so many of his colleagues’ lives were cut short?

It reminded me of another conversation when someone close to me told me to “get past the breast cancer and move on with your life.” I thought, “Really? If you were in my shoes would you feel that way? Do you ever really ‘move on’ from something that changes your life, scars your body and leaves you with chronic discomfort in your chest and arms and the distant ghost of recurrence?”

Yes, it is important to “move on” and not dwell on unpleasant memories that mire you down. But some things are life changers and game changers and what I learned from the text exchange on September 11th is that you have to remember to put yourself in other people’s shoes before you speak or respond. It’s about really listening and seriously reading between the lines, and making your reaction personal and purposeful.

The exchange stayed with me, and made me want to do something that means something to others. I realize I have the gift of words and need to use it and share it. So, I decided to create The Daily Hug. The idea is simple: Every day I am sending one person a Daily Hug by email or hand written note to let them know I thinking about them and to see how they are doing. It can be anyone whose life has crossed mine. It’s such a simple concept, and I figure everyone could use a cyberhug as well as a physical one.

So, a hug to all of you my friends, who read my blog entries and share them with friends and understand it’s about making a difference.  And next time you do need a real hug and a few words of encouragement, consider it done!