I am what they call the “Mission Mother” and I do hugs. I’ve been thinking about the good hugging that goes on in missionary life as I hug the Sister missionaries and watch the Elders greet and hug each other. My hugs for the Elders must wait until their last day as we say our goodbyes at the airport. That’s when I break the rules and embrace them with all my heart. In the meantime, they see my hugs and feel them from a distance.
They told me I’d learn to love every missionary. I believed that, but had no idea how much I’d love them. Two weeks before we arrived in Yakima a year ago, our youngest son turned 20. Honestly, I was feeling happy to have survived my kids’ teenage years, and was ready to move on to the next phase of their lives.
Then I found myself dropped into mission life, with as many as 185 new teenage children to look after. I wondered how I would manage that. More Teenagers! Way More Teenagers! Then I began to meet them, and know them and love them. I’ve learned that the capacity to love is a gift from God. He has given me that gift and my heart has grown and stretched as I have come to love each missionary here.
Don’t let go first.
Hugs help everything. Hugs help lonely, homesick, sad, mad, or hurt. Hugs help stomach aches and headaches and ingrown toe nails. Hugs say, “I’m here with you right now. Everything will be right.” My hugs are mothers’ hugs. They represent 185 other women who can’t be here right now. Hugs are serious. I need them as much as I need to give them because my kids can’t be here right now either.
The most important thing I’ve learned about hugs is don’t let go first. Affection has no timer. For some it’s long and for some it’s short. In either case, I don’t let go first. It makes all the difference.
Hugging therapy is definitely a powerful way of healing. Research shows that hugging (and also laughter) is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress.