Okay, so you’ve probably seen this before but, hey, why not be reminded again this Valentine’s Day of the power and hope an innocent hug can convey. I guess it says that you don’t have to give yourself away, totally, physically, to be touched by the most basic human affection, solidarity, and love. It’s right there in a simple human gesture. The free hugs begun by Juan Mann (a psuedonymn) reminds us that we are not alone. We share in one another’s tears and joys because we share a common humanity. Children seem to know this already and we, we may need to re-learn this simple message.
Here is Juan Mann’s account of how it all started.
I’d been living in London when my world turned upside down and I’d had to come home. By the time my plane landed back in Sydney, all I had left was a carry on bag full of clothes and a world of troubles. No one to welcome me back, no place to call home. I was a tourist in my hometown. Standing there in the arrivals terminal, watching other passengers meeting their waiting friends and family, with open arms and smiling faces, hugging and laughing together, I wanted someone out there to be waiting for me. To be happy to see me. To smile at me. To hug me. So I got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. I found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held that sign aloft, with the words “Free Hugs” on both sides.
And for 15 minutes, people just stared right through me. The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.
Everyone has problems and for sure mine haven’t compared. But to see someone who was once frowning, smile even for a moment, is worth it every time.