It seems we are all born with the need to be hugged. Infants thrive when they are held, and toddlers often require twenty-some-odd hugs before they can peacefully sleep. But somewhere along our aging journey between accepting social norms and learning to put on a brave face, we forget the importance of a good hug.
One day last spring, I was reminded just how necessary a good squeeze is for all of us.
As I held my toddler on my hip, my 9-year-old daughter bounced in to the dining room ay my grandmother's assisted living facility. As she rushed to give her great-grandma a big hug, I happily waded through all the requests to see "the little one." As you can imagine, the kids are a big hit in a room of aging seniors.
As we neared my grandmother's table, I saw a resident at a nearby table tug at my daughter's sleeve. I hurried my step so I could be there to remind my daughter to be polite. What happened next forever changed the way I look at my daughter and the needs of our older loved ones.
The woman, who was easily into her ninth decade, pulled my daughter closer and asked, "Would you mind giving me a hug?"
My heart raced as I hoped my daughter wouldn't pull away or somehow make this woman feel embarrassed. After all, we have forever explained the dangers of strangers to her.
Without a word, my daughter threw her arms open and wrapped them tightly around the small woman. I could see the woman's face light up and the giant grin on my daughter's face. When the lovely lady released from the hug, my daughter was still there holding her tight.
My daughter eventually let go and flashed her new friend a big smile. When she turned to walk away, the woman grabbed her sleeve once again.
"I haven't hugged a child in more than 20 years," she exclaimed with tears running down her face, "You just made my day!"
My daughter flashed the woman yet another smile that seemingly sealed their new friendship. My heart was swollen with pride, but aching for my daughter's new friend who was so delighted by just a simple hug.
As we drove home that evening, I thanked my girl for having such a wonderful heart and sharing it with a lonely woman who needed a hug. I told her how proud I was to be her mother, and just like that, she gave me yet another reason.
"She said I made her day just by giving her a hug. Do you think we can go every day so I can give her a hug, " she asked, "Twenty years is way too long to not hug a little kid, Mom. We've got a lot of hugs to catch up on!"
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