I must admit if it weren't for my job here at a weekly newspaper, I would have paid no attention to the Snuggle House. I was neither outraged, nor particularly interested. I suppose you could stick the Snuggle House, as a concept, in my Sarah Palin folder: Ignore it and hope it goes away.
Well, we didn't ignore it. I think the ratio of words written to days the Snuggle House was actually open for business could be the highest in Madison media history -- and yet it went away anyway. (If only that had worked with Palin.)
Isthmus managed to give the snuggling concept a try before the business shut down last week, the owner "choosing to pack up his pillows and beds under intense scrutiny from city officials who questioned whether the place was a front for a brothel," according to AP's Todd Richmond.
The part of the Snuggle House saga that stuck with me, though, was the idea that people these days are so starved for connection that someone thought this could be a viable business.
In shepherding feature stories here at Isthmus I come in contact with many people who see making human connection as part of what they do in the community. The first person/story that came to my mind was "The Muffin Exchange" guy Ian Klepetar, who biked through Madison in January 2012 offering free muffins to folks who would agree to a kind of personal- or community-improving commitment in return. The muffin, of course, is just a MacGuffin to get people thinking about connections they have with other people. "What are we working for on a day-to-day basis -- after the essentials, what more do we want?" as Klepetar told me.
I thought about the people I met when I was writing about community dinners, who think about feeding those hungry for connection as well as food.
I thought about the Humanitarian Knitting group that meets at the Pinney Library the first and third Thursday of every month to knit items for charity. "Assistance is available for those wishing to learn to knit or to improve skills. Please bring your own needles. Yarn is provided," the group notes.
I thought about my cousin, an administrative assistant at a high school outside of Atlanta, Georgia, who started an after-school knitting group to teach students how to knit. What a simple thing that was, and such a good idea. Those kids she taught to knit came to her memorial service. She died of cancer, three years ago today.
There are dozens of ways to make contact with other people.
Looking back on the Muffin Exchange's now-dormant Facebook page, I scanned the comments left by people sharing their positive experiences with their muffin commitments:
The muffin ex-change brought a smile to my face. The best hug I received was from a homeless man. I never would have thought to hug him and I'm so glad I did. We are one human family. Thanks Ian, for helping me understand this on a deeper level. Spread the love.