Free hugs in Orange County!
Manuri asked me if I could write about my experience today. Before I do, I’d like to share a story.
A long time ago, I was a temp data entry clerk.
On my first day of work, for some odd reason I never introduced myself to my cubicle mates, a pair of middle-aged full time workers. One day became two, two became three, three days became four… the weeks passed and still we had never spoken to each other.
When my workdays seemed so long and unbearable, I would listen in on their conversations and hope they might include me. I would think “maybe I should introduce myself now,” but it always seemed too awkward. After all, we had been sitting next to each other for months, day in and day out, separated only by an inch of cardboard.
How could we still be strangers after all that time?
My temp contract ended after four months.
I never introduced myself.
I think about my cubicle mates from time to time. I wonder if they think about me, or if they even remember me. Probably not.
I think about how long and lonely those four months were for me.
I think about how different it could have been if I had only taken a second to say hello.
Sometimes the simplest things seem so hard to do.
Sometimes its the smallest, simplest things that make all the difference.
On Jan 6, 2007, Manuri, Sonali, Supun, Kay, Ann, Gianna, and myself spent the afternoon at the corner of Forest and PCH in Laguna Beach, wearing t-shirts and holding up signs that read “FREE HUGS.”
Quite a few people walked by quickly without making eye contact with us. Some people politely replied “no thanks.” And some people looked at us like we were crazy.
Sonali said that maybe they think there’s a catch. Free hugs? Why? Who are these people? What are they trying to sell? What do they want?
Maybe if I wasn’t the one wearing the shirt and holding the sign, who knows, maybe I would think that too.
Even though some rejected our hugs, A LOT of people opened up their arms (and hearts) and let us in.
I remember 1 little kid who said no at first, but later came back and gave Supun a big hug. He went to play in the sand but came back 5 minutes later for another hug. Then 5 minutes later he ran back to Supun and said “Another!!” He came back 5 or 6 times. It was the most beautiful thing.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I drove to Laguna, wanting to dedicate my hugs to my cubicle mates, hugs I could have given but was too afraid to. Every time someone stopped to embrace me, my heart jumped out of my chest. Who is this person? You want to hug me? Me? Why?
I didn’t expect this to make me so happy. Even now my heart is still jumping. It’s past 3am and I’m not tired at all.
To all the people who smiled at me or gave me a hug, I know you will never see this, but thank you for making my day.