Free Hugs

Everyone can use a hug

First posted on January 6, 2015

A video was recently making the rounds on Facebook of a young man who stood on the street blindfolded with a sign that said, “I trust you. Do you trust me? Hug me.” It was overlaid with heartwarming music and was, as a whole, a very touching video. It showed that human beings are, in fact, generally good and loving.

I’ve been going through some healing lately from my most recent relationship. I am dealing with feelings of hurt and anger, and I know it will just take time to get through them. When I saw the above video, though, I decided that a nice session of free hugs would go a long way toward mending my heart. So, I recruited an accomplice to go with me to the farmers market on Saturday morning.


I spent several diligent hours coloring an adorable sign on cardboard with markers. I loaded it into my bike bag and headed over at the appropriate time. I was a few minutes early, so I scoped out a spot in the shade near a busy thoroughfare that would be optimal for our endeavor. And then I waited for my partner in crime to arrive.

It got to be almost 15 minutes after 10:00, and I started to worry that she had forgotten. I sent her a few messages but got no reply. As I stood there, disappointed, I started to get a little blue and thought, with irony, that I could really use a freakin’ hug. But I was too scared to do my free hugs campaign alone, so I decided to get some organic produce at the market.

Shortly thereafter, I was elated to hear from my friend, who had been having trouble finding a parking spot. We met up back out on the sidewalk where we made her a sign using the supplies she’d brought with her. Then we took our positions on either side of the sidewalk… and waited.

Let me paint you a picture of where we were standing. That corner of the farmers market is ringed with about six feet of grass and then the sidewalk. On one side of that street corner was parked a box truck that opens on the side to reveal a lovely man who plays cover tunes that are projected through speakers to the outside of the vehicle. On the grassy inside of the corner was a man demonstrating his devices to make giant suds bubbles. It was a surreal scene.

It didn’t take us long to start getting hugs. It’s funny because you cannot always tell who the huggers are, but you can generally tell who they’re not by the fact that they do not make eye contact with you. They see you as slightly off-kilter and move along quickly.

Sometimes I had to encourage folks a little with a, “You know you want one!” That sometimes worked. I was hugged by white people, black people, brown people, males, females, children and one special girl with down syndrome who hugged both my friend and I. One woman approached me, stood directly in front of me and asked a bit skeptically, “Why are you doing this?” I said, “Because I want to.” And she said, “Really? But why?” I said, “I’m honestly doing this because it makes me feel good. Now give me a hug!” And she did and walked away. But I think she was still puzzled by our lack of ulterior motive.

Another woman, after hugging me, said, “I really needed that. My son and I just got into an argument.” She was tearing up, so I gave her another hug and told her it would all work out.

Several people thanked me for being there. It clearly warmed their hearts. I got a few hugs from handsome men, which was lovely, of course. There were strong huggers, weak huggers, side huggers, straight-on huggers. It was a glorious orgy of hugging.

Two people took photos and said they would tag me on Twitter. One of them actually did tag me, which is where the accompanying photo came from.

We stood there for one and a half hours while people filed between us, love songs filled the air, children played with giant bubbles and the trees shaded us from the brilliant, January sun. After each hug, I wished the person a happy new year and gave them a huge smile.

I have decided that at regular intervals throughout the year, I will repeat this exercise of free hugs. I will even make up a few more signs to have at the ready for friends who wish to participate. There is no one in the world who does not need regular hugs. In fact, you should go hug someone right now. The best part is that you get a free one for every one you give.