For more years than I can remember, I have been a hugger. I’m not sure how it happened because I can’t recall my own father ever taking me into his arms and hugging me as a child. Somehow I just found out on my own how hugs can help comfort, encourage and energize both giver and receiver. I also discovered how hugs can heal and how the benefits of hugging someone far outweigh the risks.
I’ll never forget my first visit to a feeding center located in the squatter’s village of Mesquital on the south side of Guatemala City. These people had fled from the mountains to escape the rebel army and to seek a new life in the city. However, when they arrived there, they discovered that there were no jobs and no affordable housing.
Each family simply started to construct a home with whatever scrap materials could be salvaged from the local dump. Most homes are constructed of odd shapes of cardboard, tin and scrap lumber of every dimension. There is no space between each home. Each house is just build against another. The average size of these homes is approximately 200 square feet with no electricity or running water.
Imagine with me, the site: No paved streets – just a dirt path the width of a vehicle. No sidewalks – just open sewers running along the side of the road. No windows or doors – just old sheets hanging over the openings. No grass or landscaped areas for the kids to play on – just mud and dirt. No side streets – only an alley wide enough for a foot path and, you guessed it – an open sewer.
As our vehicle pulled into this “Hell-hole” and I witnessed the site I just described and as the sickening smell of people burning whatever they could find to burn as cooking fuel reached my nostrils, I began to cry. This experience caused my life to change forever. Thirty years later, as I share with you this experience, the tears come again.
My first thought as I stepped out that vehicle was “O Lord, forgive me when I whine.” I made a commitment right then and there, to myself and my Creator, that I would do my part in making the world a better place, that I would be bold enough to make a difference.
The next site literally tore my heart out. Kids came running from everywhere, yelling “Gringos.” The Americans who had started this feeding program which consisted of a Bible lesson and a warm meal twice a week, were affectionately referred to by these kids as “Gringos.” What took me by surprise was the fact that these kids were not afraid of me, a perfect stranger to them. As I knelt down and stretched out my arms and began hugging those dirty little kids, I made the startling realization that these kids were starving for more than food; they were starving for affection and love.
One little four-year old boy just wouldn’t let go of me. He wrapped his arms around my neck and pressed his cheek against mine. I carried him that way as I followed the rest of the kids down a narrow path between two rows of shacks to the one used as the feeding center. I stooped to avoid hitting my head in the doorway as I entered a dimly lit room filled with rows of narrow benches. As the program began that afternoon with the kids singing at the top of their lungs, my little friend relaxed his grip around my neck and fell asleep on my lap. What a picture! As if to say, “I’ve finally found a friend who will love me and who cares”.
5 Reasons to Make Hugging a Habit
The five main reasons we all need to discover the magic of a hug are as follows:
Why not give it a try? Join the hugger club today. You will feel better and so will the people you hug!
Ben Kubassek is an international expert on social entrepreneurship, author, and speaker. He’s on a mission to help young people in developing countries launch their own businesses in order to create jobs and bring transformation to their communities.
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