That's me at Yonge and Dundas Square. Free Hugging it up.
I know that this may make me sound like a hippy, and I am totally fine with that.
I love free hugs.
Some of my most powerful and transformative experiences have occurred during a free hug event.
I've only participated in about three of them, but each one was such an amazing experience, and a wonderful opportunity to break open from my introverts shell and give out some love to my fellow man (and woman). Therefore I am open to doing it as often as possible.
I'd like to share with you my first ever free hug experience, that took place about three years ago in downtown Toronto. I had met a wonderful guy Shawn Jason, through a group of people who formed the "Love Crew" - of which Shawn was a founding member, and who organised many of these types of events before.
We all met up at Yonge and Dundas square early in the morning (the early birds scored free shirts and sweaters that had awesome quotes on them) to meet and greet; as well as to design signs to promote that we were giving away free hugs, and to organise those who were present on the routes we were going to follow, and also who we would be walking with.
On a side note, it was during this event that I learned that you are considered a "gang" if you are joined with at least nine other people (ten in total), and to do so is against the law. I wonder if this law is waved on every Black Friday?
Anyway, once the signs were finished, my wife and two children teamed up with some other wonderful folks, and began down our route that would eventually lead us to a central location where the other groups would all meet up.
And yes, we definitely brought our two children with us, who at the time were 7 and 10 months, and who had a blast.
I can remember that every moment up to when we began our walk, I was feeling the butterflies in my gut. I had never done anything like this before, and giving total strangers a full on hug was something that was outside my own comfort zone.
Interestingly enough, as soon as we headed out, something came over me. All fear and hesitation had left me completely, and I totally surrendered to the choice I had made, which was to be a vehicle for love and kindness.
So I began belting my voice as we walked, marketing our free service with such enthusiasm and humour that most people were immediately disarmed; unable to respond in the typical fashion - which consisted either facing or ignoring my presence all together. Some people did ignore my presence, and I respected that. Some of these same people met me with sometimes timid acceptance, or in other cases equal zeal.
And I tell you, I have never felt so open and free in my entire life than when I hugged someone I had never met before. There was such a powerful moment of connection; of a unifying energy that wasn't created with the hug, but revealed.
This walk went on for several hours as we made it through our route, with occasional stops in between different locations where large numbers of people would pass by in a short period of time. I can remember one particular hug that was so epic for each of us, that 10 minutes after, the same person (and their friend) returned to get another, commenting that they had never had such an awesome hug before.
In another instance, one of the other volunteers present was stopped by someone who had looked very sad and alone. I don't recall if anything was said prior to the hug (of which was powerful and deeply heartfelt); but afterwards the individual pulled back, and with tears in their eyes and a breaking voice, generously thanked them - explaining that they were in real need of a good hug today.
If you have never experienced the "free hug," either through receiving one or giving one, then consider this to be my personal recommendation. Get out there with some friends as soon as possible, and spread some free love with hugs; because not only is it incredibly powerful for you, but you might just change someone's life.