Monday, June 11, 2007

Free Hugs

This young man and his friends were at our downtown Saturday market offering free hugs to anyone who wanted one. The Free Hugs Campaign has a web site with a short video that is well worth watching, if you can see through your tears. (The Becka thinks I'm silly!) Here is a quote from the site.

" In this age of social disconnectivity and lack of human contact, the effects of the Free Hugs campaign became phenomenal."

Human touch is a powerful thing. In my job as a physiotherapist, I am frequently in close contact with my patients. This requires trust and creates some vulnerability. I had a patient, an elderly spinster who had succeeded remarkably in business, who bristled when we reached out to position her swollen legs.
"I don't like to be touched!" she reminded us over and over again.

I touch people in a professional way, helping move a weak limb, or supporting someone learning to sit or walk again. Those whose trust I gain often open up on a deeper emotional level. During treatment sessions I may be entrusted with the disclosure of very personal memories, hopes and fears. This is often an important part of the healing process.

The family I grew up in would never be described as "huggers". There was a combination of stiff Germanic emotional control combined with a strong British sense of propriety. People we met who displayed more emotional exuberance seemed humorous (or intimidating) to us. This kind of response is very common in Canada. People were not lining up to hug these young people at the market.

Touch is so important, even to those who would resist it. Teachers are discouraged from giving hugs to their students and too often fear stops us from physically reaching out to others.
The old lady who initially protested our attempts to give her physical care came to accept it. With the acceptance came a mellowing, tears, and open grieving about her loss of health and independence.

Give a hug today, to someone you love, or to a stranger. I am sure you will both be rewarded.

to all my readers


  1. (((((((Ruth))))))) a big hug from me to you. I can't "not" touch people in caring for them, and I think it's such a powerful thing to lay your hands on someone in a healing way. I grew up in a hugging family and have always wanted and needed that, though hubbby did not and so it's been doubly important to express that need for me. A simple hug can be so comforting and expresses so much.

  2. Ruth, this is my favorite post from you. And, it invoked a need for Kleenex. I didn't have a huggy family, either, but later in my life I learned how much I love to be hugged and to give a hug. It's so healing and comforting.


  3. Anonymous9:53 am GMT-4

    I think I saw these in flickr and wondered what the heck!! Now I understand! {{{{HUG}}}} back at ya!

  4. I am in a very huggy person, maybe it is because I grew up in Europe where you often "bisou" (kiss on the cheek) people you meet.

    I know a lot of people here in America, particularly guys, who think that hugging is either girly or sexual. I do not think it is either, I think hugging taps into one of our deepest human desires, to experience wholeness and community.


  5. Aw, thank you! Hugs to you too! (I'm a big hugger, but my siblings aren't, unfortunately.)


    (through tears) HUGS to you too!

  7. Hi Ruth,
    I'm going to say "ditto" on Lynne's comments.

    When I worked at Mayo, it was stressed to us that it was NOT ACCEPTABLE to touch co-workers except on the arm (forearm preferred). I had a co-worked who loved to hug and she defied The Mayo Way every chance she could. I miss her hugs!

  8. Hugs to all and thanks for yours Ruth. I needed a hug...I'm all by myself in Arizona. My 'hugger' will be back on Wednesday :-)

  9. I come from similar Germanic roots - no touching - yet I always kiss my brothers and family members on greeting and leavetaking.

    I work with huggy people - makes me uncomfortable, which I makes me feel strange - which makes me feel even more uncomfortable!

  10. Jayne- You must be the best of nurses! You are so right when you say touch is a powerful thing.

    Mary- Thanks. It is hard to change the emotional response we learn as children. Good for you.

    Monarch- Hugs accepted!

    Jaspenelle- You grew up in a huggy culture, but I don't think the family is huggy at all! I enjoyed your post in response to this. You and Becka are more like sisters than cousins...lots of hugs required. ((((love you))))

    Maureene- You're welcome! There must be a hug gene that your siblings missed out on.

    Lynne and Ruthie J- I am glad I am not the only one who gets emotional when they see things like this little video. Interesting story from Mayo, Ruthie. I assume this is the Mayo clinic, an institution of healing? Such silly rules.

    Omalois- Special hugs across the miles. I like time alone, but it is always nice when someone comes home.

    Laura- I really identify with you and appreciate your honesty. I am not one to initiate hugs and they can make me uncomfortable too. It is important to recognize that we all are different. We need to respect the comfort level of others.

  11. What a great post! My grandma, in her nineties, passed out "Free Hug" coupons to all her grandchildren, and told us to use them often. She grew up in an era when hugs were not too vigorous or frequent, and came to realize how important they are to communicate love. Thanks for writing about this. I join the others in sending HUGS TO YOU!

  12. Africakid- what a great story. We can overcome our learned tendencies and come to express affection more easily.


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