Sunday, December 15, 2019. A small part of the abitbetter.eu team implemented its long-cherished plan. We went to give free hugs! :) Along with regular litter picking, this is the activity we’d like to introduce to our growing community. We’d like to cheer up and surprise as many people in Hungary as possible with this not-so-extraordinary act. Hereby we encourage everyone feeling motivated to join us next time. Edina Dudás-Implom summarized our experiences.
“A hug is the perfect gift. One size fits all, and nobody minds if you exchange it!” – Ivern Ball
I’m not sure what your childhood was like, but there are things that mattered a lot more back then than you’d think. Remember when you were small and you fell? Your mom hugged you, kissed it better, and it didn’t even hurt that much anymore. Do you remember when your friend said something nasty about you or hurt you, and you cried? Your mom or dad comforted you, hugged and soothed you. Or when you had a bad dream and your parents hugged you and then you fell asleep in their arms?
To touch more cheerful topics: When you hadn’t seen your grandparents for a long time, and when you finally met, they gave you a big old hug so you could barely breath because they love you and missed you so much? And you hugged back because you missed them too. Well, these are all positive effects of hugging. :) Whenever you give it or receive it, if you mean it, it makes you feel amazing.
This is not by chance, as during a real hug, oxytocin is released and that is why we feel its positive effects.
What else is a hug good for?
- Strengthens relationships between people or humans and animals. I don’t think this needs further explanation after the examples given above.
- Reduces stress.
- It has an antihypertensive effect.
- It calms the human nervous system.
- Very often, it’s followed by a smile! :) So be happy!
- It slows you down a bit. When you hug someone, it’s not just a quick “hi”, it signals deeper affection. It takes longer, so there’s time to experience it.
- Can also be used as a therapy.
- It makes you happier. :)
We started organizing with all this in mind, as free hugs fit into abitbetter.eu’s profile and we’ve also been trying to put together such an event privately for 3 years.
First we wanted a summer project at Móricz Zsigmond Square in Budapest. But unfortunately we had to postpone.
Our goals were diverse. To promote the website, and of course to promote ourselves (OK, not really :)), to share a bit of love, to laugh a lot, to smile, to make others smile, and last but not least to hug and be hugged.
We set up some rules to make organizing easier, or in some cases, more difficult. For example, we wanted to use the event to promote abitbetter.eu. Therefore, we wanted to make the logo, the name and the QR code clearly visible. For this we needed a booth, which was Noémi’s idea. We got one as a gift, one that needed some repair: we glued it together, removed the old stickers and applied the website’s.
Then the harder part began. Whenever you want to use a public area, you need permissions. Even if it’s just a 2 square meters in the City Park. Since the information on the booth counts as advertisement, it’s mandatory. So you need to get in contact with the owners for a written permission. They dictate the rules, and we can decide if we’re OK with that. In the end, the Flórián Shopping Center agreed to have us, and did so free of charge. They didn’t even specify where we had to stand. As soon as the date became official (15 December), we began working out the details.
Finally, December came.
1:45 pm – The Flórián Shopping Center very kindly let us set up our booth wherever we wanted, so we chose a location next to the Christmas tree, between the stairs and the shops. The place was slightly busy, but it was peaceful and there was a bit of Christmas mood. The 4 of us (two Noémis, Ádám and Edina – myself) started unpacking. We took the booth out of a huge bag and started assembling it. We were very excited about whether people would come to us or whether we should take the initiative. We made some FREE HUGS signs. We made some badges for the occasion earlier, so we put these on the booth. After putting our bags and coats away, we were ready for the big start. Ádám had other stuff to do so he left, so the three of us stayed, ready for the hugs!
14:00 – At first people gave us some weird looks, trying to figure out what we’re actually doing there. It was hard for them to believe that we’re there just to offer free hugs. Everyone had different reactions. Some went far out of their way to make sure to avoid us, leaving through the other exit with a grimace, or going up to the second floor instead. It was a bit disappointing, but “All I want for Christmas” was on, so we just ignored the negative people and focused on the others. We met endlessly nice people who came back several times for free hugs, and that was great. Fortunately, there were some who were also interested in the website, so they checked it out and we could also give away some badges. It went quite well. Many have asked what we want in return. In our surprise, first we answered that they owe us nothing. Later, of course, we rather asked them to go hug other people, as the more people exchange them, the better.
Later, there were joyful moments when none of us were empty-handed. We hugged everyone who let us. We were literally waiting for everyone in the mall with open arms. The sweetest little huggers were the kids. For me, one of the most touching moments was when one a little girl rushed straight towards us from the entrance with a plush toy in her hand. It was like in the movies, when two people run towards each other, and in their joy they almost clash, spin, smile and laugh. There was a very shy child about 2-3 years old who barely dared to come to us, but in the end he went back to his parents with a big smile on his face.
There wasn’t a specific age range of people who we met, it was very mixed, and I was really happy about it. There were small children, teenagers (there was only a few of them and they were the most distant), young adults, middle-aged and old people too. I think the older age group was the most extreme. Those who decided to trust us were very direct, kind and really friendly. But those who considered us even a bit weird or dangerous (yes, that really happened, we were surprised too) avoided us, moved away from us, and even pulled their acquaintances away.
16:30 – By this time we were starting to get a bit tired but we carried on, since that’s why we were there. There were some who we comforted, some who we cheered up, some who we surprised, and some really cool people who surprised us. A lovely girl gave us chocolate, others offered nice words, support or even kisses. :)
16:50 – When we started packing, we realized that it went pretty well despite being the first such event we organized. I must mention that I probably have never laughed so much in my entire life, really. I laughed at people’s weird expression and how they thought we’re crazy, and at how sweet the little ones were. I laughed together with all the people we cheered up. It was so good to just laugh at the whole world and only focus on spreading the joy. We received and gave lots of good wishes. They say it’s better to give than receive. This is indeed the case. I hope we left everyone in a good mood and we are looking forward to the next free hugs project.
On the way home, it occurred to me that if we were all a bit more positive, if we all smiled a bit more, we’d live much happier lives. It’s not about things we cannot change. It’s about a different mindset, or at least not seeing everything so dark, and our lives would be different. We cannot change the bad things that happened to us. But what if we saw the glass as half full more often? :)
Translation by Ádám Hittaller