“What is a free hug?”
This was the question that was posed to me last week by several students. They had seen a group of UD students on Main Street carrying signs which read “Free Hugs,” and the ELI students were perplexed as to what exactly a free hug is and why anyone would want one.
“Is this normal?” one Saudi asked me. “Do all Americans give free hugs?” queried another.
What, then, is a “free hug?” Well, the “free” part of that phrase means that it doesn’t cost anything. And a hug is a common way that Americans greet each other, show affection for one another, or, in times of sadness, console each other. If you’re happy to see someone, give them a hug! If you’ve missed someone, show you care by giving them a hug! If your best friend is homesick, give her a hug!
So, in short, a “free hug” is just what it sounds like-- a hug from a stranger with no strings attached.
But why? Why take a hug from a stranger? The “free hugs” movement was started as a form of promoting random acts of kindness. The idea is that people should do nice things for strangers for no other reason than because it makes the world a happier place. Juan Mann, the founder of an international day to celebrate free hugs, recalls “... I went out to a party one night and a completely random person came up to me and gave me a hug. I felt like a king! It was the greatest thing that ever happened.” Giving away free hugs is a simple way to bring smiles to people’s faces.
Since the first official “Free Hug Campaign,” free huggers have been spotted in China, Israel, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, Belgium, France, England, India, Uganda, Canada, the United States, Greece, Austria, Portugal, and now... Newark, Delaware!