John Romano holds precious cargo within.
It circulates between memory and the inner core where empathy stirs.
He'll deliver it Sunday to Newtown, Connecticut when he hugs a Newtown teacher and a Sandy Hook Elementary School bus operator who had been the driver for children killed by gunman Adam Lanza Dec. 14.
John Romano is no hugger, he said. But he will venture outside his comfort zone to fulfill a wish from a student.
John, a Swampscott High Class of '96 graduate, teaches science in inner city Philadelphia at Girard College, a K-12 boarding school.
It is endowed by old money for students with no money, children who come from a single- or no-parent, low-income background.
The kids have an especially hard time around the holidays when gifts are scarce. So, a few years ago, a Girard administrator created a wish tree at the school.
On it the children hang paper ornaments upon which they write gift wishes. Typically for shirts and hats, food and candy.
This year student Gabrielle Carter wished "she could hug those people affected in Newtown."
Unlike the shirts and food, this wish was a challenge to fulfill, and adults at the school wondered how they could make it happen, John said.
"I decided that I could try to transfer her hug to some of the people of Newtown," John said. "So we came up with the idea of her hugging me and then me driving to the town to deliver that hug."
John contacted people in Newtown, including a teacher in the area who volunteered to receive the hug.
At Girard, the student, Gabrielle, and the teacher, John, embraced in front of about 250 students and staff. It was emotional, and he felt a transfer of emotion.
"It is strange, part of me feels like I am carrying precious cargo," he said.
John, who lives with his wife — they married in September — in Philadelphia, is a warm and caring person who puts his students first, says his mom, Madeline, who lives in Swampscott.
Madeline was not surprised to hear about her son's hug transfer since he has done things for students over the years.
He brought two former students to see their favorite team, the Red Sox, his mom said.
He brought a graduating senior who had no parent to her interview at both Harvard and Yale where they both offered her a full scholarship, Madeline said.
For his part, John credits growing up in Swampscott, where he played soccer and lacrosse and loved to sail, with getting him to where he is today — a teacher.
"I grew up on Paton Terrace surrounded by wonderful neighbors like the Leahys and the Shanahans," John said. "I grew up in a community where people knew and cared for each other, where I couldn't get away with being less than my best.
"I feel truly lucky to have grown up in Swampscott and I can honestly say it was the sense of community in our town that got me to this point. The constant care of each other that the town, and my family taught me shaped me into who I am today.
"There is no doubt it is this upbringing that is making me carry out this task. The teachers I had, the people in my class, these are the people who define a person, and I had the best people in the world around me.
"I am just honored that I can help this student carry out her wish. It is really Gabrielle who is an incredible human, and I am humbled by her show of care for other people."
John's Twitter name is PaleoRomano. He will post tweets about his Newtown experience and report back to us at Swampscott Patch.
Want to share your opinions with your community? Start your own blog here.