I don’t spend much time on Facebook these days … it mostly annoys me and I haven’t time to waste anyway. But, I pop in a time or two a day, and one of the pages I typically check out is the Jon S. Randall Peace Page. I was working on a post for this afternoon at the time, my usual political fare, but when I saw this, I just had to share.
FREE HUGS for anyone who may need it.
There are “Free Hugs” campaigns all over the world now.
His name is “Juan Mann”. He supposedly started it all in 2004, or at least made it more popular.
He had been feeling depressed, going through some tough times, some personal difficulties. He didn’t think anyone cared…until one night a total stranger, perhaps sensing his plight, hugged him. Juan Mann felt like a different person, so he wanted to do the same, to see if one man can make a difference in people’s lives.
Just for the heck of it, he went out, made up a sign that said “Free Hugs”, and stood in a busy section of the city. He said he was “scared absolutely sh*tless.”
At first, of course, a lot of people just stared at him, some making fun of him. Many people were hesitant, understandably distrustful of a man offering a hug.
Then, an elderly woman walked up to him. She just looked at him, then she hugged him.
She told him that “it was the anniversary of her daughter’s death, and that her daughter’s dog had died that morning. She was sad because she no longer had any real link to her daughter. She came into the city looking for a sign and found me, a 22-year-old guy who had no idea what he was doing, holding a literal sign. I was just putting it out there and hoping for the best.”
That’s how the original Free Hugs campaign started.
Then the video came out, and everything went crazy after that.
It started after a member of a band decided to videotape Juan Mann one day. Juan Mann didn’t hear from him until he had fallen into another depression after his grandmother had died. He would receive a tape from the band member – it was the videotape chronicling Juan Mann’s Free Hugs campaign, simply telling his friend, don’t give up, “This is who you are.”
The tape was eventually uploaded to Youtube, and the rest is history. The video has become one of the most watched videos on the site, encouraging people to hug each other, a random act of kindness to make make someone feel better. For those of you, who may not have seen the video, it will be in the comments below.
Recently, writer Kim Corbin, who started her own campaign “Free Hugs Across America”, caught up with Juan Mann in Australia and interviewed him.
He was asked whether another viral hug campaign is needed again in today’s world, where hate and divisiveness runs rampant.
He said, “I think they can help change the world, but that’s me being ambitious. If more and more people connected with more and more strangers, locals, friends, and family, that could only be a good thing. I mean we’ve got one planet and we’ve got to share it. We need to start looking at it in that light – we have one planet to share – we don’t need to focus on the divisions between nations, on borders and disputes.”
He mentioned a few of the current free hug campaigns, such as the Global Free Hugs Day campaigns which runs every year, as well as other events in something like a hundred countries every year.
He also mentioned Ken Nwadike Jr., who started the Free Hugs Project, which started in response to the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Nwadike has made major news headlines for his peacekeeping efforts and de-escalation of violence during protests, riots, and political rallies.
The Free Hugs Project’s mission is “Continuing the nonviolent movement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. . .. to spread love, inspire change, and raise awareness of social issues.”
Nwadike has put himself between police and protesters, hugging both, and he has recently spoken out about homelessness and mass shootings. He has been at Charlotte, North Carolina, Parkland, and he has even been at KKK rallies.
Nwadike said, “I think that starting the conversation with kindness rather than hatred will get us a lot further. Communities are divided because of fear, hatred and misunderstanding . . . many people have the same desire to connect more and show kindness to others, but are afraid to initiate it. Most people want others to take the first step so they can kindly respond. I like taking the first step and hope to inspire others to do the same.”
Juan Mann said, “He [Nwadike] inspires me. The fact that he’s willing to go into conflict zones, to get between the people and the police, to put himself at great risk to try and promote peace on the front lines is quite impressive.”
There is also the Human Hug Project, whose “mission is to raise awareness of PTSD by giving love back to humanity, one hug at a time. They travel across the country hugging at every Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals.”
There are now many free hug videos out there as well, some with individuals who are blindfolded. One blindfolded person stood in London with the sign, “Trust yourself to hug a Muslim”.
Some free hug proponents, like Juan Mann initially, also ran afoul of local laws. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, two men were arrested by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for offering free hugs in a public space.
No matter what anyone says about the Free Hug campaigns, official or nonofficial, even virtual hugs online, they have made a difference to people, like the elderly woman who first hugged Juan Mann or the people who received hugs from Ken Nwadike Jr.
And, as they have proved, anyone can be “Juan Mann” and that “Juan Mann” can make a difference.
Now, don’t you just feel like going out there and hugging someone? Well, what are you waiting for … GO! Go hug somebody … and then somebody else … start a hugging movement in your neighborhood!