June 30, 2014 – Juann Mann, living in London at the time, found his world caving in on him, so he headed back home to Sydney, Australia. He arrived at the airport with a bag of clothes, a world of troubles, and no one to welcome him back home. As he stood watching other passengers being greeted with smiles and hugs, he found himself feeling even more alone. He wanted someone to be happy to see him, to share a smile or a hug with him.
So he took a piece of cardboard and made a sign that said “FREE HUGS” on both sides of it. Then he found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held the sign high, waiting to offer a hug to someone in need.
15 minutes went by as people stared right through him until eventually a woman stopped, tapped him on the shoulder and shared with him how her dog had just died that morning. She shared how it was the one-year anniversary of the death of her only daughter from a car accident. She shared how she felt so alone in the world and how she needed a hug. Juan gave her that much needed hug and when they parted, both were smiling.
From that moment on, Juan offered free hugs on the streets of Sydney, sometimes getting kicked out of places, and yet he continued.
In 2006, he release a video on YouTube that has been viewed over 78 million times and inspired people around the world to offer hugs… including me.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched
- they must be felt with the heart."
– Helen Keller