Since nearly sixty million people have viewed this video, I figure I must be one of the last to discover it. With Sick Puppies singing “All the Same” to accompany the video, we watch Juan Mann holding a bit sign “Free Hugs”. At first no one responds. Some smile and keep walking. Others ignore him completely.
Then one person stops, then another and another. Security personnel put an end to the hugs, but 10,000 people sign a petition to bring them back.
The story behind the video is compelling. Juan Mann was living in London when his world crumbled. He flew home to Sydney, Australia, with only a carry-on bag of clothes. No one met him at the airport.
He writes, “I wanted someone out there to be waiting for me. To be happy to see me. To smile at me. To hug me.”
So he made a big sign and went to one of the busiest intersections in Sydney. The video shows what happened. Since that day Juan Mann’s Free Hugs campaign has gone global.
Seems to me this belongs here in Catching Courage because of the two-sided courage required: the person holding the sign and experiencing rejection and the people who dare to respond. For a brief moment, they stand in a circle of light. Maybe the memory of that hug is a tiny flame they can hold against the shadows.
Free hugs in Italy:
Free hugs in Japan:
Free hugs in Scotland:
And more (but by no means all):