Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so I thought it was really important to recognize this day with an act of kindness for my Mom. A few months ago, I came across a You Tube video of a man named Juan Mann who started a “Free Hugs Campaign.” He has traveled all over the world with a simple sign reading “free hugs,” in an effort to connect with strangers and brighten their day.
I was really inspired by Juan’s ability to be so vulnerable and open. So, I decided to leap way out of my comfort zone by attempting a “free hugs” giveaway of my own. I am totally not comfortable putting myself out there as Juan did, but I decided to say “yes” to a new experience and hope for a positive result.
I thought long and hard about where I should go and decided to return to my old college stomping ground, the NC State brickyard. The brickyard is a nostalgic place for me where I used to loaf around and make critical decisions such as “should I get a pizza for lunch,” or “do I want to go take a nap before going out tonight?” It’s also a very busy place where tons of diverse people of all ages and races tramp through each day.
I arrived at the brickyard around 9:30 with a huge nauseous lump in my throat and giant butterflies in my stomach. I argued with myself in the car for several minutes before saying a quick prayer to Mom, and lunging out of the car with my trusty homemade sign. I set up my free hug shop right in front of the Atrium (food court) and waited for my first hug. My first customer was an older gentleman who said his wife had been battling with bi-polar depression for years. I shared Mom’s story with him and he gave me a big bear hug. In total, I got 49 hugs in a little over an hour. There were shy hugs, one-armed hugs, running hugs, bear hugs, sweaty hugs, and good ‘ol grandma hugs (thanks to two sweet employees from the food court). I enjoyed every one of them!
To see the video that inspired me, check out Juan’s website at http://www.freehugscampaign.org/.