A hug has many purposes. It is something so simple that is sometimes taken for granted by those of us who have the good fortune of receiving them everyday of our lives. As children most of us probably received hugs before bed, to make us feel better and countless smothering hugs from relatives. But people who never experience those hugs would certainly never take those for granted. I believe that the power of a hug is immeasurable until you experience life without them.
This past summer I spent ten days in Zacapa, Guatemala on a mission trip with a group of people from my church. We ran clinics around the area, helped at local day cares, and helped construct the new nutrition center that was being built in the area. I was amazed at the level of poverty the people were living in. One day we held a clinic at a local trash dump where close to two hundred people lived. The families there had no possessions and they lived off of the trash they could gather everyday from the dump. During the day we spent there I tried to entertain the children as they waited for their turn to be seen at the clinic. Throughout the day only a few of the children were actually seen with their parents. Most of them were accompanied by an older sibling and when I ventured to ask where their parents were in my broken Spanish a few girls who were only about ten told me their parents had left them at the dump while they searched for jobs and a new place to live. Because their parents were nowhere to be found many of the children were deprived of the human contact they so desperately wanted and needed. By the end of the day groups of them would simply try and pile up to sit on your lap and be near someone. It was often hard to communicate because of the language barrier that existed. Not many people from the group spoke Spanish and while I had taken several years of Spanish in high school I was nowhere near fluent. Even though most of us could not talk directly with the children the hugs we shared spoke a thousand words even with the language barrier.
The thought of the importance of a hug never crossed my mind before my experience at the dump. Something as simple as a hug can have such a big impact on a person. It is a simple gesture that can brighten anyone’s day when given with love. People often take the simple things for granted but I challenge you to never take a hug for granted. Even the awkward ones you are forced to exchange at family reunions and the countless hugs you receive from your parents and friends. You never know how lucky you are to experience the joy of a hug until you meet someone who deserves a hug the most but has no one to give them one.