Barry Smith: All kinds of saints go marching in |

Barry Smith: All kinds of saints go marching in

She’s called “The Hugging Saint,” and she’s coming to a city near you.

Wait, that’s only partially correct. Actually, she’s already been to a city near you, as she is currently finishing up her tour of the West, hot on the heels of her tour of Japan. Sorry, I stumbled upon this info a little bit late.

But she is called “The Hugging Saint.” Her real name, more or less, is Ammachi. She is an Indian “Holy One.”

Now then, you may well ask, what does a Holy One do on tour? Well, in Ammachi’s case, she does what her name would imply, she hugs. She hugs everybody, and lots of them, everywhere she goes. You might say that hugging is what she does.

A friend of mine saw Ammachi last week during the Santa Fe leg of her tour. She told me that people line up, kneel down and wait their turn to approach Ammachi and get hugged. My friend got hugged. She said it was good. She said Ammachi exuded pure, unconditional love. I believe her. I’m a little bit jealous. I want a hug.

According to her Web site, (yes, the Hugging Saint has a Web site … Joan of Arc would have had a Web site, too, had the bandwidth been available), she has been known to hug up to 18,000 people in a day and sit for 20 hours while doing so. That’s a lot of hugs. That’s a hug-a-thon.

Traditionally, an audience with an Indian Holy One involves catching a little glimpse of them as they are carted by on a pillow. Or maybe you just peer over the crowd and see them just sitting there being Holy. You certainly aren’t allowed to touch them. The Hugging Saint, with her tendency towards hugging, represents a radical break with this tradition. She’s like an in-your-face Holy One.

She doesn’t charge for hugs, of course, but she does have merchandise for sale, the proceeds from which go to support her numerous hospitals, schools, temples, orphanages, senior citizen’s homes, battered women’s shelters and on and on. The Hugging Saint is cool. And she’s on tour. Rock!

This sounds like the killer gig to me. Travel the world, meet lots of new people, hug them, etc. … I could go for a gig like this. But since the hugging slot is already filled, I’m going to need my own angle, my own, highly personal approach to expressing love in the world. And don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of love to give.

Yeah, The Hugging Saint has a lock down on hugs, but I have a few ideas of my own:

* The High-Five Saint – The high five usually feels like an empty expression of feigned enthusiasm, unless it is performed in conjunction with playing or watching sports. I don’t play or watch sports, but I can usually pull off a generic high five in a pinch, though when I try to say “Wooo!” while doing so it generally ends up sounding forced. Maybe this one isn’t for me, as I can’t see people turning out for a sissy high five. I know that if I were a true Holy One I wouldn’t be concerned about turnout, but I prefer playing to a full house.

* The Indian-Burn Saint – You could brandish your red forearm for the rest of the day as a reminder of my unconditional love for you. Show your friends at the office. Tell them I’ll be in town all week and that they really should come down.

* The Noogie Saint – Oh yeah. C’mere, ya little … here’s an expression of pure love for ya, huh? How ya like that? Feels good, huh? Yeah, have a few more. OK. Next, please. Lean forward to accept my love.

* The Wedgie Saint – Hello, my child. Turn around. Take that. Accept the healing power of this Melvin. You are loved.

* The Doink Saint – Got a little mustard on your shirt. Yeah, look right there. DOINK! Ah, ha ha ha ha. Bless you. Next.

* The Got-Your-Nose Saint – I never really bought into the whole “got your nose” shtick. Even as a young child, when some adult would grab at my schnoz and happily declare that they had my nose I would think: “Clearly, it’s not my nose that you have, but your thumb poking through your index and middle fingers in a pathetically feeble attempt at trickery. I’m a child, not a moron.”

“Got your nose” always seemed to provide more pleasure for the person doing the getting than the one getting gotten, so maybe I could be the “Get-His-Nose Saint.” People could line up around city blocks for a chance to “get my nose.” Get the nose of the Holy One. The nose of pure love.

* The Titty-Twister Saint – Uh, on second thought … probably not. The media would go to town with this one.

* The Wet-Willie Saint – As my saliva-coated pinkie enters your ear canal, you will know what it is to be loved, My Child. Is it OK if I call you “My Child?” Oh, that’s right, you can’t hear me, my saliva-coated pinkie is in your ear. Lotsa love here.

* The Pull-My-Finger Saint – Not sure how I could handle large crowds, as I’m usually only good for two or three consecutive finger pulls, but I’m sure the path will present itself to me such that I may share my unique gift of light with all those who seek it.

[ Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Monday and Thursday. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at]

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