Go ahead—hug a stranger

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):

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7 comments for “Go ahead—hug a stranger

  1. Michelle
    June 20, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I went back and watched this video a second time and every single hug also brought a smile to their face – whether they were the huggers or huggees 🙂

  2. June 20, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    I’ve seen that before and it still makes me cry! When my family and I were walking through Vancouver in February, with Olympic spirit all around, we saw two men holding the same signs. Roy and I got free hugs and it felt great.

  3. June 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Fascinating how a seemingly small gesture can ripple around the world. There are other “hug” videos on YouTube, spinoffs from Juan’s initial experience. Sometime I’ll take a look at them and will probably grin like a fool all the way through them.

  4. Simonne
    June 22, 2010 at 12:10 am

    I love this video! I wonder what would happen if we did it at home… Want to take a sign to the park with me?

  5. Geraldine Bush
    July 1, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Just loved these videos. they restore my belief in the warmth and goodness of the human race

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