World Needs Hug This may ruffle a few feathers, but that’s okay.  Most of you don’t know where I live, so I may be safe.  Besides, it’s Friday, and I have the whole weekend ahead to run away and hide.

I would like to talk about something that happened to me years ago – but has always stuck in my mind ever since. I once had a job at an elementary school, working with at-risk children, helping them with reading and assorted other subjects. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had – I thoroughly loved it. Nothing beats helping young people!

While I was going through “orientation,” I was told something that sounded odd, but I accepted it nonetheless. Being a male in an elementary school environment, I was told that I would attract attention.  This did not thrill me because attention makes me uncomfortable.  But if it was for the good of the children, it was fine by me.

I was also told that, “If a child hugs you, don’t hug back!”  That stopped me in my tracks. It sounded bizarre at the time.  But I was explained why the school had the policy, and I understood completely.  Nothing is more important than the safety of children. Besides, I was not a “touchy-feely” kind of person, so the rule would be easy for me to follow.  I never gave it much thought – until later.

It turns out that I was hugged over and over – and I never hugged back.

Soon I began to notice something.  Other teachers did hug back.  In fact, some hugged over and over and called student’s names like “honey” and “dear” and “sweetie.” These were all female teachers.

A double standard? You betcha!

Now I never said anything about this – until now – not because there is something wrong with me and I want to hug kids, but because of the reaction I saw when they did not get hugged back.  There I stood cold and rigid like a telephone pole in the middle of winter, accepting my hug without returning it. Then, when I would look into the eyes of the young person at my side, what did I see?

Rejection! It was clear that their feelings were hurt.

These young people were clearly in need of some positive reinforcement from a male role model; but I was not allowed to show any, aside from the verbal. It got to the point where a fist bump or high five seemed too risky. The environment felt cold and sterile.

So, then what do we teach our males? Do we teach them to suppress emotions, to reject love in favor of toughness?  And hasn’t our whole society drifted in this direction, where it is easier to criticize than to praise, where you are afraid to post a positive message for fear of receiving hate messages back, and where your self-worth is measure by how much harm you can do to another person?

Is love dead in the world?

Well, it may be for some, but not for me!  Today I reach out and tell everyone – even men – do not be afraid to love and feel and express yourself.  It will not make you less of a man; it will make you MORE of one!

Today I reach out to the world.  Today I hug back!

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About Joe

Freelance designer and writer whose goal is to help others by writing about my experiences with fear and anxiety (agoraphobia), health struggles (cancer) and my wonderfully-happy life as a husband and stay-at-home dad. I want to empower everyone to have a happy life.

5 responses »

  1. Colleen says:

    Thank you for writing this. As a secondary ed teacher — it was frowned upon to do any touching — not a pat on the back, hug — I was left with high-fives and fist bumps. To be honest, I did not initiate hugs because of the social stigma that has arisen. But I did hug back. Maybe not a hug like I gave my son but if a high school kid was willing to be emotionally vulnerable and initiate a hug — they got a hug. I can guarantee there would be a lot less depression, anger, cutting, and all sorts of problems if a kid just got a hug a day.

    • Joe says:

      Thank you for saying that. I don’t know how people will react to this, but I think it needs to be said. People need to know what kids need. To this day, I am haunted by the looks I got — like I rejected them — when I could have made much more of a difference, a positive difference. We are failing our young people in a lot of ways. People need to speak up. Changes need to be made.

      Thanks, again.

  2. Colleen says:

    Reblogged this on Life in the City with a Future and commented:
    I thought this was an important post to share.

  3. Forest So Green says:

    I know we must keep the children safe but I think it is terrible that the teacher cannot return a hug to the child. I enjoyed reading this post 🙂 Annie

    • Joe says:

      It’s a sad reflection of our times, but that’s the way it is. I didn’t feel bad for myself. I felt bad for the young people who offered positive feelings and were not allowed to receive them. I wonder how bad that must have felt.

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