I saw the Free Hugs video on youtube last week. It’s been there for a while but I missed it before. I thought it was a great idea, and if you just search for “free hugs” on youtube you’ll see pages and pages of videos of people doing it all over the world. It’s really inspiring. Of course I wanted to do it and called my brother right away since he’d be into something like that too. So we planned for last Saturday and got some friends to join us.
In total there were 6 of us. We started out in Rittenhouse Square but got kicked out for soliciting. I was handed a whole list of things you aren’t allowed to do in the park, things like playing ball or frisbee, skating or biking, or generally anything that I thought parks were for. We were however allowed to solicit outside the park (although I still object to “soliciting” because the hugs were free). We moved to the entrance of the park, and eventually to the corners of 17th and 18th on Walnut since tons of people were out shopping. The response was fantastic. People were a little skeptical at first, but were quick to follow suit when other people hugged us. Even if someone didn’t hug us, they still laughed at us, and either way they went by smiling so we brightened their day, which was the goal. We had people calling us over to hug them through their car windows, people jumping out of their cars at red lights to run over and hug us real quick, bus drivers wanting hugs, people handing us their babies and sending their children over, we even got hugged by a neighborhood watch Santa. Some people would see us and start running so they could leap on us, some people picked us up and twirled us around. One group of girls saw us down the street and started singing “what the world needs now, is hugs, free hugs” as they came towards us. I think we got a better response since people were in the holiday spirit, and some people really, really needed hugs, like the girl who came up to me after her credit card and shopping bags had just been stolen. It was a great experience. One guy was so appreciative of what we were doing that he invited us to come have dinner at his restaurant when we were done, and came back a little later with a gift certificate for us. Turns out he was also the chef, and let me tell you, this place had the most delicious food. It’s a little Italian byob on 20th street called Caffe Casta Diva. I highly recommend going there and getting the gnocci and the poached pear for dessert. I’ll definitely be back since it’s not even super expensive, maybe $20-25ish for an entree. After dinner we went to Chaucer’s for a few drinks. As we were sitting at the bar we heard the people behind us talking about how they had gotten free hugs that day so we turned around and introduced ourselves and ended up hanging out with them and their friends the rest of the night.
We will definitely be doing this again. Check out www.freehugsphilly.org for when.