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very time I enter an elevator in a hotel I think of Leo F. Buscaglia. That’s because he taught me to give a friendly greeting to whoever is occupying the lift when I board.

These words first appeared in this column 21 years ago, but still apply. I can’t think of a better subject for Valentine’s Day than the wonderful human being and educator who has been described as “a cheerleader for life,” and whose passion was reminding us of the virtues of love.

I heard him in the early seventies at a school boardsconvention. He had just published two of his many books, Love and Loving Each Other, one of which I devoured. As a school board member, I had been impressed by his message, and passed the book on to someone I thought might benefit from it. Maybe members of the present board could get hold of a copy.

My earlier (June 1995) write-up on him said Dr. Buscaglia was a great advocate of hugging to convey warmth, empathy and love, and thought then how he must be suffering because teachers had become afraid to touch students no matter how youngsters crave such attention, particularly those starved for it in their own homes.

A professor at USC, where he taught a non-credit class Love IA, Dr. Buscaglia had founded the Felice Foundation, which uses his birth first name, to give financial assistance and encouragement to people engaged in giving of themselves and teaching others to do the same.

“We must love one another or die,” said this wonderful man, who decried how suspicious people have become of lovers, and the hate, violence, prejudice and disregard for human life all around us.

In his book Bus 9 to Paradise his message is that life is a paradise for those who love many things with a passion, such as people, food, music, family, learning, joy and life itself. 

The current political shenanigans in this country must have him turning over in his grave. Unfortunately he died from a heart attack in 1998, so is no longer around to give encouragement to a more loving style of life. He would have been pleased, however, at the salute to love during the halftime presentation at the Super Bowl.

I enjoy living in a senior citizens complex where everybody, residents, employees and visitors, always share a pleasant greeting in passing, whether they know you or not.

And I notice that people in the elevators I use now are much friendlier on entering and leaving than they were 50 years ago. And if they aren’t, I try to do something about it. That’s my salute to Leo Buscaglia and the insights he shared with me over 40 years ago.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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