Saturday, June 25th, 2016
Free Hugs In Hillcrest PDF Print E-mail

Free Hugs in Hillcrest FREE HUGS IN HILLCREST, CA ~ January 20, 2007    
By Suzanne P. Reese (the one in the red head wrap)
Infant Massage USA, Trainer

At first, it was just two of us - in front of the Whole Foods in Hillcrest, CA - just down the street from where I hold a training every year at The Center in San Diego, CA. My friend Therese Ellsworth and I arrived at Noon. I made the signs on the way over there. Just some cardboard my mother-in-law gave me for you-never-know-what and black flipchart pens did the trick. It’s true, you never know when you’ll need something, and today, this was the perfect use for the cardboard I’d held on to! Admittedly, we were a little nervous, so we stalled a bit. We went into the Whole Foods first – visited the restroom, puttered around a bit, Therese bought a couple of things......then, there was no avoiding the reason why we were there – we had a mission!...we grabbed our signs (we parked right in front of the store - lucky spot!)...and stood there on University Avenue. It took a mere minute before we got our first hug, Therese was the first free hug-giver - and of what became the three of us, she was the most open and encouraging to approach people - even when they just looked at us and didn't know what to say when we said "Free Hugs! We're Giving Away Free Hugs Today! Would You Like A Free Hug?” Therese approached them with open arms.

Image Most people, I'd say 8 out of 10, hugged - even if it had to be encouraged with actions like simply approaching them with a big smile and open arms - or saying things like "5 Hugs A Day For Good Health!"...It was amazing to see the responses. A little old lady said that – “5 Hugs A Day…”, and it became our mantra for the day. Huggers started counting and some made sure they came back for more to get their hug quota for the day. It was the perfect mantra!
People in cars passing by honked, shot photos with their cell phone cameras, gave us thumbs-up and waved. Some people shook their heads and furrowed their brows like "no way, this is ridiculous". Some people, when offered a hug, just kept moving - no eye contact, stiff body language. Some people turned the offer down, but did say "No thanks, but I think you're doing a great thing." One guy said "I'm tactile defensive" - Maybe he just needed a hug?
Favorite hugs were… the older folks - oh-my-gosh, sooo cute!....especially the older ladies - they were adorable, so grateful and wanted more hugs - it was so cute. One older lady in an electric wheelchair stayed and just hung out with us for a while. Nobody was creepy about it - at all. Another favorite was a cyclist who saw us, passed us and then turned around and tapped me on the shoulder, I turned around and he said "Hey, I rode back for my hug!" That was great. More people waved and honked from their cars....there was a couple who approached us and said they saw us from the road, drove around, found parking and walked around the building just to give us each a hug! That was awesome. There was a retired English Professor who said he really appreciated what we were doing - and that he was going to go home and tell his wife. Another couple was visiting from the east coast - they stopped, hugged and snapped photos. As I approached one lady, she said "Umm...I don't hug people I don't know." So I stopped, introduced myself, "Hi, I'm Suzanne Reese", shook her hand and then gave her a hug! She giggled. It's pretty cool - I know people are going to be talking about this for the next week - at dinner, at work, on the phone....I like to think it'll get people thinking about the importance of human contact, sans judgment, criticism and conditions. This is a simple and humane act of reaching out to others with compassion and empathy - just because we are human.
A cop car drove by, and I thought, "Oh geesh, we're going to get asked to leave", but we didn't...that was a relief! Hey, we should have offered that cop a hug!

Image A lot of people asked "Why? Why are you doing this?"  "Who is making you do this?" "I don't have to give you anything in return?" One group of men were particularly interested in this mission of reaching out to others “just because”. Therese talked about Infant Massage USA and quoted research abstracts on the significance of touch - she rocked!
A woman came outside of the store with her little girl Natalie - sooo cute. She said "We were in the store having lunch and could see you through the window. My daughter Natalie wants to know why you are doing this? Is it for school?" That was so cute – we’re way beyond that phase of our life, so that was really a compliment. We talked more, told her about compassionate touch, Infant Massage, Belarus...this lady was really nice and very engaging.  When people asked me "Why?" ....even from their cars ( ! )...I'd say "For compassion among human beings!” Just like a little old lady said, “Everyone needs a hug, you know!"
Some people came back for seconds, and my favorite was this: We were packed up and ready to go - My friend, Nicole Verdes, who joined us for the last segment, was saying goodbye and a van pulled up - illegally stopped by the sidewalk. Image A guy (from the passenger's seat) jumped out and as he was walking towards us, he motioned with his arms, hands and there was a tilt of his head that just said "Come on, hug me!" He saw us from the street and stopped to hug us all - I can't put my finger on it, but there was something significant about that last "official" hug as we stood there with our signs in hand. He seized the moment, he came to us - it was totally pure.

The very last hug was a young man who saw us earlier said he'd get his hug on his way out of the store....Therese and I did a little shopping before we left for the day. When we were loading our groceries, we saw the young man, and he said "Are you still giving away hugs? I said I'd get mine on my way out"...Well, of course we are! cute - and that was that :) A really happy day! Smiles, giggles and laughter filled that corner of University Avenue that afternoon, and it’s not soon to be forgotten – I’m still smiling! Thanks to fellow infant massage gal, Babette Fritz, this happened today – it’s just the beginning!
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