The couple were in their 60s, walking down the rainy street yesterday, huddled into one another, both in long warm coats, neither holding an umbrella. Practically no space between them, the man leaned on the woman for support. It looked like they had been together a long, long time.

Late in the night, my little boy climbs under the blanket to snuggle in next to me. Seven years old, he’s done this all his life, claiming he doesn’t like to sleep alone.

When I ended my marriage, I was happy to be without friction and tension but hoped one day I would find that person I enjoyed sharing my life with. Luckily, I found him, and when we return to each other at the end of the day, we both smile. A weekend together flies by too quickly. We have so much fun together and when things get rough, or life is exhilarating, it is him I turn to, for a hug, a familiar hand, his eyes, his love.

When I tuck my daughter in at night, she says, “I want you.” At the kitchen table, she climbs onto my lap and leans in, never close enough. My eldest son comes when I beckon for a hug, despite being a full-on tween. He’ll even cuddle in bed to watch a movie, and again there is barely any space between us.

All anyone wants is love.

We are born with that primal need to be held, to be close to warm skin, to be nurtured at the breast and cuddled and calmed. Our society begins its progression of creating distance, but the human need is to eliminate distance and move in close. Not sure why it’s our culture to shove everyone in separate bedrooms down long dark hallways to fend for themselves.

Truth is, no one really fends for themselves. We all need to know we’re loved. And when we give love, we are lifted up higher than we ever could have imagined.

Gradually, we learn that not everyone loves us, and it is a harsh reality. Children cry when bullied. Adults cry when bullied. Because we all believe in the centrality of human goodness and honesty and kindness and when it is missing in a situation where we thought it would thrive, we are stunned, even if it’s happened to us before.

Even when we’ve been the object of a rant or a fight or any unkindness, we still naturally expect people to be good. Because they are good at the core; some just learn, by being treated unkindly themselves, to be unkind to others, as a means of survival.

The essential truth of human life is that everyone yearns for love. Once you have it, once you are confident in the knowledge and experience of being loved, everything else is wonderful.

When the love is missing, life seems almost not worth living. Full of despair and darkness and sadness and abandon. There is nothing deeper than the hole of loneliness.

It is a very basic need, this need for love. And so easy to fill. I wonder why so many of us do our best to create distance rather than intimacy, coldness instead of love.

As the year draws to a close, see whom else you might be able to shower with love. And make sure the people who love you know how grateful you are for their hearts. It is no small thing.

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