Be the Cause

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.


  • Christine, thanks for the shirts and the ideas…

    It was fun. I’m somene that would still say, “Hugs are overrated.” When I say that I don’t mean include the hugs that the beautiful women like Christine, Anne, Gianna, Kay, Sonali and Manuri give. They hug people as if saying without words, “pardon me while I shake your soul…” My hugs suck. A lady even told me, “hey you didn’t give me a good hug, let me teach you”. That’s hillarious as heck. It did make me smile. I think that was the point of me going to this. It was not just to hang out with cool people and make fools of ourselves together. It was just to say, “F*** it, if they think it’s something that is worthwhile to do for the new year, I’m all for it.” It was much easier to jump out of an airplane than stand around with a sign asking if people wanted to go take and recieve hugs. It still feel embarrassing to think I did that. But it was so silly that it was fun. People did geniunily appreciate it it. We got a lot of compliments for and a lot of people asked “why?”. Our usual answers were “For fun”, “Be cause we’re crazy”, “To wish You a happy new year”, “No reason”, “We saw a cool video on youtube”.

    So, I guess readers maybe wondering why I think hugs are overrated? First of all, I’m very cynical. I think there is a a lot of “Sham and Drudgery” in the way we live–the answer to that problem lies somewhere in here:

    Of course, I include myself in that Sham and the Drudgery. I don’t know that hugs are needed or if the are the answer to why we make the world so impersonal. If we hug each other in the midst of the stupid rules and conventions and nuclear proliferation and pollution and undo stress and fake politeness, it doesn’t make sense, right? But I do think there is no reason not to practice being silly and just go with the flow.

    I really could not hug alot of the people that walked by. Not that I worried about what they thought of me, it was more about me feeling fake about myself. But, like a character in a play I psyched myself up for the role. I saw how much Anne loved holding up that sign, sometimes almost admantly against the gods with conviction. I tried to see a little bit of people I love in everyone that walked by. Sukh came walking by a few times. My 8 month year old nephew, who sometimes (while blinded) I think is THE ONLY happy thing that has happend in my life in the last few years came by so many times. The One that organized the event came by alot too. A lot of people that I know are very very sad these days came by in walking by inside complete strangers. I don’t really believe in the “ripple effect” that Sukh wanted his nephew to feel in a recent blog. But I finally had an idea to try to believe in it. Sometimes, you kind of have to psyche yourself to do wild and crazy things that go against your reason….

    I recently wrote to someone that compassion is not something you can really analyze and explain why people feel compassion, that would be putting the cart in front of the horse. It’s more like gravity, nobody really knows why small things move toward BIGGER THINGS. It’s like a motivation, a human force, that everyone feels equally if they are at the same circle (Thinking about the circle Sukh meditates about). Anyways, the first compassion cell of the year made me feel silly but gave me enough to think about too

  • michele

    Reading your post, gave me the biggest smile! I can literally feel your excitement thru the Internet. Thank you so much for sharing. You’re a really incredible person and your positivity and sense of hope is contagious. I’m glad you are my friend.

    What you wrote should be a blog entry, not a response. You have important stuff to say (like your entry about the pawn and the king). Believe it or not, I really, really understand what you’re talking about. I too, have to psych myself up from time to time. It’s hard to balance the cynicism we aquire confronting so much negativity and injustice in the world with the idea that one person can really make a positive difference in the world. I think both positions are correct. I recently heard someone say the way to make change in the world is thru anger, hope, a correct analysis of the issue, and the willingness to agitate the status quo. I’m coming to learn that sometimes the agitation comes thru protesting and sometimes it comes thru giving free hugs to random strangers. I learned something on this recent service vacation that I think is going to help me in the future. I’m going to share it with you since it seems we think a lot alike. I learned that poverty, like a myriad of other things, is just a circumstance, its not who we are as people. Sometimes our circumstances are beyond our control. We dont get to choose what country we’ll be born in or who are parents are going to be. But in spite of sometimes tough circumstances, we can still be smart,creative,funny, and kind. Some of the most outstanding displays of kindness I saw on the trip came from people, that according to my standards would be totally justified not being kind to anyone. In South Africa, I was consumed by the circumstances so I couldnt see the people I was supposed to be there to serve. I’m going to try hard this year to see beyond the circumstances and keep my eyes focused on whatever people I’m dealing with and to remember the common things we all share. I think if I can do that, I might not have to psych myself up as much. I wish you much happiness and many ripples of kindness in the new year.

  • christine

    Thank you Supun.

    I was thinking about what you said. Would hugging really make any difference amidst all the sham and drudgery around us?

    What struck me the most is that in spite of the stupid rules and conventions, nuclear proliferation, pollution, undo stress, and fake politeness, in spite of all your reservations — you came out with us and you gave hugs anyway.

    You could have easily stayed home, or spent your afternoon doing any number of more practical, logical things. But you came.

    And I think, in a way, that made your hugs all the more meaningful.

    Thank you Supun. The next time I encounter something that goes against my reason, I hope that I too find the strength to rise above it.

    I’ve only known you for a very short time but I want to let you know that I think you are an amazing person.

  • Gianna

    What an amazing day and Christine, thanx again for the shirts! Can’t wait to hear stories from Boston, Mass. and Houston, TX.

    Manuri recorded all on video…sometimes we look like we’re kicking back in pics, but we hugged over twenty something people or more…Sonali was counting 25 early on…there must have been more, but I forgot to count!…Sometimes people hugged a few of us…most hugged all of us in a line. And there were hugs even before we hit the beach. On the way back, people stopped to hug us and even while we were scheming about where to set up hug station, people hugged us..while waiting for everyone at Diedrich’s. Hug volunteers, I really felt the moment of silence preceding our hug takeover really helped to keep us in the inspiration of all of it!

    Gianna :)

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  • Good day

    It’s a quick video I made to show off the dervishs dance from the Guild-Wars night-fall party.
    The dance the Dervish does is the same one that Christoper Walken did in the clip for Fatboy Slims’ – Weapon of choice music video (hence the music used)

    Post your comments please


    Original for those that may not have seen it

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