The Why of Hugging

Hi Folks:

In our last ‘Free Hugs’ post we detailed the process of making our new ‘Free Hugs’ posters. Below we have the lovely Marcia modeling one of them for us.

New Posters in Action!

New Posters in Action!

We’ve been offering free hugs to locals and visitors (and other species) for seven years now, and (without question 🙂 ) the one question we get asked more than any other is, “Why are you doing this?

There’s a pretty simple answer to that question, but before we get to it we should mention a couple of other things.

The first is where we do our hugging, and the answer to that question is that we go to the Homecoming Statue on Wharf Street by Ship Point (that’s our spot by the railing, on the left).

Homecoming Statue

Homecoming Statue (with thanks to Google Street View)

There are a couple of reasons for this. The most obvious is that Nathan Scott’s statue depicts a sailor coming home and being welcomed by his family; his daughter is running into his arms. It’s a good place for hugging. Second, the pedestrian space is quite wide here and by standing away from the sidewalk and near the railing we don’t obstruct anyone. We receive a broad range of reactions from people. There are those who see our signs and literally come running toward us, and there are others who get so far away from us that they almost risk being run over on the road. We don’t judge either way. At times we’ve had groups of people line up for hugs; at other times we’ve had people who want to stop and share their stories with us. Where we stand, when we get a hug jam we’re out of the way of those seeking to pass by.

Therein lies one of the central tenets of what we do: we offer, but we don’t engage anyone. Those who are interested come to us, and those who aren’t get a smile, a wave and a wish for a wonderful day! We share waves and air hugs with people across the street and those in vehicles (although we have had a few occasions of vehicles pulling over so the occupants could get out to hug us!) We’ve hugged people on bicycles, people in wheelchairs, and (on occasion) we’ve hugged dogs too. We once got to hug a bearded dragon, quietly perched on its human’s shoulder. We’ve hugged octogenarians and those in the womb and all ages in between. So far this year we’ve had 8 hugging sessions; we’ve hugged people who live locally and visitors from 37 countries. As mentioned above, we’ve had people who literally run toward us, and we’ve had people who go outside of their comfort zone to do so. Some people will stand back and watch for a while before approaching and others will pass, stop and spontaneously return. Our arms are open for everyone.

So… why do we do this? It’s simple: we do it for kindness. It makes us feel better, it makes those with whom we share hugs feel better and together we make the world a little better place. We’ve hugged people in joy and we’ve hugged people in sorrow. We’ve hugged people who are fulfilling their hug quotient for the day and we’ve hugged people who haven’t been hugged in more than a decade. We’ve hugged people who were celebrating a birthday or other special event, and (for example) we’ve hugged two people whose houses burned down and one person who had recently discovered that the body of a friend (missing and presumed dead for 15 years) was finally found. That news brought closure but also re-opened old wounds. We hug people who ‘need’ a hug, and we hug those who are willing to give us a hug. We believe in sharing hugs – one can’t truly give a hug without receiving one in return – but others are welcome to think differently! There really are no rights or wrongs to this.

The other question we are frequently asked is, “How many people have you hugged today?” The answer to that question is: we have no idea. We don’t keep count because it isn’t important to us, but there’s more to it than that. Each person with whom we share a hug is unique and each hug we share is equally unique. Last Saturday our hugging session coincided (both in time and location) with Victoria’s Skafest and we had probably the busiest hugging session we’ve ever had!

We can tell you that the first time we tried this we were terrified; we had no idea what to expect. That lasted for several minutes until our first ever hugger – a little girl about five years old – separated from her parents and came over to hug us. Now, on a typical day our first hugger arrives within about 30 seconds of when we unroll our posters. It’s wonderful!

One last note for the day… a reminder that the first Saturday in July of every year (this weekend!) is International Free Hugs Day. Wherever you are, hug the ones you love. Or a stranger. Or, preferably, both.


P.S. If you’re looking for other ways to share some love, try!

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