Free Hugs

She stood in the middle of the college quad with a sign that said, “Free Hugs.” I’d heard of the Free Hug Campaign and Juan Mann’s simple, yet radical idea of offering free hugs to anyone that wanted them. But I’d never actually witnessed someone offering free hugs. Struggling through the middle of an intense 3-year sprint toward graduation after dropping out of college for 3 years and then returning; a series of intense food allergies I couldn’t pinpoint; my own major misgivings about the church I had belonged to all my life; and the grey, sludginess of midwinter — I was in desperate need of a hug.

Into this hurricane of events came someone that was offering love with no expectation of anything in return (save, I suppose, a hug — since hugs are a two-way thing.) That grey, frigid morning this generous, loving woman was exactly what I needed. Though I initially smiled at her and walked by, within seconds, I turned around and walked back to her.

“Actually, I really could use a hug right now.”

Without hesitation, she dropped her sign and gave me the best hug I’d had in days. No, awkward tap tap, no uncomfortable ‘I-don’t-know-you’ squeeze, just a genuine, warm, full embrace. The hug only lasted a moment, but I carried the high from that hug through the rest of the day. It wasn’t an earth-shattering, cancer-curing act. It was a simple act of kindness and love.

This life is both beautiful and intensely hard. In it, we can choose to make this one life of ours easier or harder for ourselves and the people around us. When we pause and really see people, ask honest questions, and listen, really listen; the impact of these things extends far beyond what we will ever see firsthand.

I am willing to bet that there have been people in your life, people you knew well and those you didn’t know at all — like the student in the quad with the “Free Hugs” sign — who show up in your life and do something for you that changed you. It could have simply turned a bad day around or it could have completely changed your life. People Helping People is about those moments. It is a collection of stories, yours and mine, of the people in our lives that helped without any strings or expectations attached.

Each day, in our small way, we are changing the world. When we reach out with kindness, generosity, curiosity, and love, we create more connection and love. So bring us your stories. The stories of a time, or times, when someone else’s story intersected with yours. Stories of the words and/or acts, big or small, that made all the difference. So, I ask you to take a second and think:
Who has helped me with no expectation of anything in return?

Seriously, take a second. I’ll wait……

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Thought of one? If so, share it with us. We’ve all got stories to tell of people who helped, oftentimes when we most needed it. If you are interested and willing to share your story of how someone helped you, please reach out to us. We’d love to interview you and spotlight your story. Send us your stories to us at: spotlight@myhelpapp.org.

Before you go

To learn more about the Help App, check out our website here.