Why Free Hugs?

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Global Free Hugs

Spreading kindness through the simple gesture of a free hug.

Why free hugs?

8757222“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
~ Virginia Satir

Why free hugs? Each time I watched Juan Mann’s original Free Hug video it brought tears to my eyes on the simple gesture of showing kindness to a stranger. Yet was it truly that simple?

It sure seemed simple, create a free hug sign and find a public place to open your arms to offer free hugs to strangers. Simple? No Worthwhile? Absolutely.

The sign creation simple. Putting yourself out there, opening your arms and thus your heart to strangers took courage. I feared being seen as weird and truth be told, some walk by and seemingly think just that. Yet far more smile, or say thank you, or get a hug. Some actually join us.

My first free hug experience came nearly a year after starting Positive Focus. Free hugs seemed like a perfect fit for what we were about, so in 2008 I added it to the calendar as one of our gives back events. That first event took place on a cold January day outside of Chicago’s Navy Pier. I had to sigh a protest form in order to be allowed to stand there. I arrived first and was too embarrassed to hold the sign up solo (what would people walking by think of me), so I waited until one of my other huggers joined. They came and we hugged. The fear subsided and the amazing feeling of standing witness to a stranger unfolded. The hug was a simple gesture of I see you, you matter.

We continued to offer hugs in Chicago throughout the summer of 2008 and in August I thought why not hug the world. After lots of emails and inquiries, we had our first global hug event in the fall of 2008. Since then we hug annually the first full weekend of May to let people know they are seen and that they matter.

Still five years later and twice a month hugging, I get a tinge of ‘what will others think,’ that is until I get my first hug or smile. Whether it’s sunny, hot, cold, raining, or any other weather condition, there is always at least one person I hug each time that I know truly needed it. They needed to be seen. They needed to know they matter. And I needed it too.