Hugging Day

Hugging Day

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Hugging Day

You can’t wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug.

~Author Unknown

One day at church, a good friend gave me a “just thinking of you” gift wrapped in pink tissue paper. It was the original Chicken Soup for the Soul and it had just been published. The book was filled with interesting and uplifting stories. I remember I began reading it that very night. I would read an entry or two before going to bed each night. One evening I read a story about hugging called “It Can’t Happen Here?” The opening quotation by Virginia Satir said we need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve hugs a day to grow.

A graduate of one of Jack Canfield’s workshops had written a letter to him to describe how she had instituted a “hugs day” at her workplace. She wanted to share with her mentor the positive outcome.

I read this story on a Tuesday. I know it was Tuesday because on Wednesday I walked into my second grade classroom and declared that henceforth every Wednesday would be known as “Hugging Day.” I told my second graders everyone needs hugs to live and grow.

I was already a hugger and had always greeted my students with a warm hug each morning. But after reading the story in this new book, I decided that on “Hugging Day” everyone needed to make sure they got at least twelve hugs. I wanted my students to grow. All hugs didn’t have to come from me, but I was ready, willing, and able to dole out as many as needed.

My students lined up at my desk with questions and left with a hug. They hugged me before recess and after lunch. They hugged me when they came to school in the morning and when they left for home in the afternoon. The practice spilled over into other parts of the school. Soon the art teacher was helping the children collect their hugs. The gym teacher and music teacher offered their arms to the cause as well. The principal, a long time believer in hugging, dropped by every Wednesday to help make sure the children met their quota. And perhaps best of all, the children in my classroom hugged each other.

Every Wednesday my students counted and charted their hugs to make sure they were getting their fair share. I continued the practice for several years, even after I moved from the second grade classroom and started teaching kindergarten.

Through the years I hugged rich kids and poor kids, smelly kids and clean kids. I wrapped my arms around a boy with a brain tumor and a girl who was deaf. I hugged children with an array of disabilities and diagnosed disorders. I hugged children who were gifted academically and others whose gifts lay elsewhere. I hugged children who were fluent in English and a child who only spoke Chinese. I hugged children coming from all sorts of family situations and living conditions. Hugging Day was a success.

I was cleaning up my classroom one Wednesday afternoon after my newest kindergarten class had gone home. I needed to get everything ready for the next day. I put new activities out on the tables, checked the hamster cage to make sure Houdini was still locked in safe and sound, and set up the calendar center to welcome my students to a new day of school.

“Is Wednesday still Hugging Day?” a soft voice called into the empty classroom.

I looked up to see a tall beautiful blond teenage girl standing in the doorway of my classroom. I will never forget that moment.

“Nicole?” I said, as my former second grader entered. She fell into my arms and began to sob. I hugged her and comforted her as best I could. We sat down in the tiny chairs designed for kindergarten children.

Nicole told me how her father had been killed in a truck accident only a few weeks earlier. We talked, we cried, and eventually we both left that room to go our separate ways.

But I learned something new that day. It doesn’t always take four hugs to survive. Sometimes it just takes one.

~Rebecca Waters

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