Sunday, April 8, 2007
Free Hugs Campaign hits Las Vegas
Juan Mann says, "Sometimes a hug is all we need." How can anyone disagree with that? A hug is the universal sign of compassion. With it we say to one another, "I understand what you are going through." But Juan Mann and the Free Hugs Campaign take it one step further. He's made it his official mission to reach out and hug complete strangers, just to brighten someone elses day.
Juan's friends, the band "The Sickpuppies", were intrigued by how Juan spent his days. They videotaped him at a shopping mall, holding up his FREE HUGS sign and set the images to music. The band posted the video on youtube.com and the response was amazing. Millions of people were touched by the video depicting Juan's day at an Australian shopping mall and the reactions of the people who accepted his kindness. Oprah Winfrey was so moved by the Free Hugs Campaign she invited Juan to be a guest on her show.
People all over the world have caught the Free Hugs bug and planted themselves on busy street corners holding up scribbled signs that read FREE HUGS. One such kind soul was Daniel Kaufman, a fifth-grader from Las Vegas, NV. After seeing the youtube video, he pestered his mother to take him to the local shopping mall so he could be like Juan and make people happy. She hesitated, after all, this was Las Vegas - Sin City. For months she resisted, even though she secretly wanted to be the one holding the sign.
Finally she gave in and called the local police department to tell them her plans and make sure Daniel had their blessing to hold up signs at the Freemont Street Experience, a walk-thru tourist attraction at the north end of the famous Strip.
At first, Daniel was apprehensive and shy. In all honesty, his mother relates that she had butterflies, too. But she took the sign and got the ball rolling. After a few false starts and strange looks, people began to respond. An entire family, visiting from the South, hugged Daniel one after another. People took pictures with their camera phones. One man recited a Navajo Blessing as a thank you to the gracious young man.
"Now I've seen everything!" one man laughed as Daniel passed by with his sign held high.
Daniel's hope is that some of the people he hugged were inspired to start Free Hugs Campaigns in their own neighborhoods. "It really felt good. My face hurts from smiling."
For more information about the Free Hugs Campaign go to www.freehugscampaign.org or search youtube for videos from grassroots efforts like Daniel's from all around the globe.