My First Hug by Elana Rabinowitz | Everyone is Worthy of Love | Inspiring Story #66

My First Hug by Elana Rabinowitz | Everyone is Worthy of Love | Inspiring Story #66

inspiring-story-worthy-of-love

How you treat another person can impact their life forever.  Be inspired by Elana's heart-warming story of experiencing her first hug.  

My first summer at sleep-away camp, I was only nine years old and stayed three full weeks, 21 holy days, the blackjack of my youth.  I swam, ran relay races and sang folk songs with warm arms swaying on the grassy lawn in front of the infirmary and ate Fruity Pebbles out of individual cereal cartons almost every morning for breakfast. I was in heaven.

I was also the farthest I’d ever been from home.   I was from Brooklyn, where I used to play wiffle ball with my girlfriends in front of my house but stopped because of all the speeding cars.  While my home was grand in stature there was an emptiness to it.  Everyone was always working or hustling, and I was often left alone, with my lanyard key chain to fend for myself. I faced two large brick edifices; apartment buildings that filled the street with endless noise, loud boom boxes echoed in the streets, people yelled from their windows keeping me up at night. There was always remnant of dog poop or trash leaving a trail on the cement pavement.  I was happy to leave the chaos behind.

Everyone was always working or hustling, and I was often left alone, with my lanyard key chain to fend for myself. 


My sister helped me pack my black trunk and filled it with terry cloth shorts and jumpsuits and endless socks and underwear with my name written on the labels with black sharpies.  The summer before I spent at day camp, where loud girls with pig tails wore tight tube tops and dominated the overly chlorinated pool. I sat with my sister in the back of the bus watching the skyscrapers turn into grassy knolls and then we arrived with a group of counselors waiting for us.

The moment I stepped off the bus, I knew I was somewhere special. 

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 Most of the counselors had long curly hair, even the boys and were wearing rock Jersey’s.  Everyone resembled each other for the first time.  They smiled and leaned on each other so naturally as if their bodies were meant to touch – I began to unwind.  When they called my name to go to bunk 8, my counselor grabbed my hand and welcomed me.  I looked into her brown eyes and instantly felt at home, better than home, what home was supposed to feel like. Warm. Safe. Was I in paradise? Could the world be this calm and green?

The smells were sweeter, pure, dewy.  I slept in the woods wrapped in my navy blue sleeping bag awoken by a friendly kid in a cowboy hat that offered me rocky mountain toast that I ate with my bare hands.  How protected I felt in the wilderness. I didn’t mind the hungry mosquitoes and poison ivy that covered my soft pre-pubescent skin in red welts and Pepto Bismol-colored Caladryl lotion. Like a tattoo of happiness - a badge of honor.

I learned what it was like to have gentle women hold your hands and cute counselors smile at you and to shyly smile back. Not like the kids at school who pushed and shoved and screamed in high pitches. Here everyone smiled and was kind and affectionate, I didn’t want to leave the country, especially my counselors. I went to the Rec Hall to say one last good-bye before getting on that big bus that would take me back to Brooklyn, away from all that was fresh and sweet and pure.

I looked over at all the young girls and how they embraced each other, tightly and lovingly, tears spewing out like spigots from their red eyes. How different this was from all that I ever knew.

My friend took my timid little hand and led me to my bunk-mates. There, like a first kiss I didn’t know what to do. My counselor in her Yes rock jersey grabbed me gently, hugged me tightly and kissed my little forehead three times in a row. I felt the warmth ooze down my nine-year-old body. I knew I’d be back next summer to frolic and learn songs and to get a hug as great as that one.

I looked over at all the young girls and how they embraced each other, tightly and lovingly, tears spewing out like spigots from their red eyes. How different this was from all that I ever knew. 

It took the fresh air and rolling hills of Upstate, New York for me to realize what kind of warmth and compassion the world was capable of.

Children learn and mimic what they observe.  At nine years of age I learned that it was okay to hug and feel safe.   While I had been embraced before, I never really felt a hug like I did that summer.

The way we treat children can impact their lives forever. I took these lessons and became a counselor who showered my campers with love and patience.   All these years later, as a teacher, I try to do the same with my students.  

Less hugging, but showing them through my actions that everyone is worthy of being loved.


Meet Elana Rabinowitz...

Elana Rabinowitz is a teacher and freelance writer from Brooklyn New York. 

You can connect with Elana on Twitter or reach out to her via her website:  https://elanarabinowitz.weebly.com/contact.html

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  • Kelsey says:

    Such a sad, but beautiful story. Camp can be such an amazing experience for children and I’m glad you had that chance!

  • Carol Graham says:

    Beautifully written story – touched my heart in many ways. I look forward to reading Daily Inspired Life regularly. Thank you

  • Laura Fallin says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart. Growing up is hard and I enjoyed reading your story and appreciated your openness. We can all identify with parts of your story.♥️ I love how you now return the love to kids that you realized was so important growing up.

  • Kristen says:

    I loved reading this… definitely made me reminisce on my time at summer camp.


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