Illustrated image for article Free hugs: The act that makes you smile !

Free hugs: The act that makes you smile

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Stand on the street with a sign that says HANG ME. Well, imagine that really imagine that. What do you feel? I first imagined it about 15 years ago when a friend invited me to do it. I liked the idea, but there was also a fear of the unknown and a bit of reluctance. But I've imagined it occasionally, and I've always had mixed feelings.


            The idea took root in me. Somewhere deep in my heart where reason can't reach. It took root far and wide, and then the moment came. I was delirious with a fever, missing work, and asking myself what this illness was going to give me? I told myself that the first thing that would pop up on Facebook would be the answer, and there was a familiar hugger from downtown Prague. I had come to hug him several times in the past. I texted him, word got out and we set up a time and place. 


            Noon at the horse. The first thing we did was to give each other a warm and long hug. I asked if we could take a picture to share with friends where I was hugging if anyone wanted to come. I kind of feel like when I offer to strangers, I want to offer to those I already know. I asked for a picture of a stranger who had a big camera around his neck. They have such a good eye for taking pictures. As he took pictures of us with signs that read PROMISE FOR PEACE AND LOVE and HANG ME (in English), he smiled more and more broadly. In addition to the beautiful photo he took of us, he also hugged us. 


And the pilgrimage begins. The nervousness slowly fades away. We walk side by side. I watch faces and look for eye contact. What happens repeatedly is that one looks first coldly into the eyes, then intently at the sign, and then back into the eyes with a smile. Sometimes a slightly amused smile, more often a touching one, sometimes so touching that the movement sparks action, the smiling person comes up to me and hugs me. Perhaps it is the appropriate weather, perhaps the constellation of stars. It seems to me that my first time is timeless, as if there were no threat of Covid-19 in society, as if there were no turmoil raging between Ukraine and Russia, as if there were no misunderstanding between nations and races. It is a wonder that it did not take place outside of time and space. The time was August 24, 2022, 12:00 - 16:30, the space of the center of Prague, the route from the Museum through Můstek and Old Town Square to Charles Bridge. Apparently, it was happening in time and space, but at the same know. 


I talk to people. Mostly in English. About peace, about love, about closeness. Gratitude, too. The youngest girl could have been four, the oldest lady certainly over 80. She looked so fragile and hugged me so tight! The lightest gentleman was a blond albino with no sign of pigment and light blue eyes, the darkest was black, big, looked strong and dark, and hugged me so gently and long. The skinniest woman was a Muslim, only her eyes were peeking out. After the hug, she pulled back her mouth too to tell me I was doing a wonderful thing, then I hugged her husband too. She talked a lot, openly and lovingly. The most revealing woman wore a thin tank top the color of flesh that at first glance it was not obvious if she even had one, her skirt was short and her purse was tiny. She gave me a cursory glance, we thanked each other in unison and smiled at each other.


After about two hours, we had seen hundreds of smiles over the course of the day. Dozens of hugs have been experienced, always authentic and unique, unrepeatable. Though some came repeatedly. A friend called me and said he wanted a hug too, and I gave him the location on Charles Bridge. He came to hug me and continued slowly with us to the other side of the bridge. He reported how not only the people I see smiling, but that moments of smiles and touching are everywhere. It was so beautiful that he didn't dare take pictures or film the reactions, he couldn't dishonor the authentic moment.


How little does it take to conjure a smile? How little to conjure hundreds of smiles in one free afternoon? What action causes us to see what connects and brings us closer to our surroundings instead of our differences? This afternoon provided me with answers to some burning questions. I will say goodbye to the readers of this page as I say goodbye to some of the huggers. Have a good day and a lifetime. Peace and love.

Have you ever witnessed this perfect support and humanity? Would you participate in such a hug? What are your thoughts on it?

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Background Photo of the author Ludmila Cerovská!
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Ludmila Cerovská

Praha, Czech Republic

Writing is a way for me to be happy and to help others to be happy. I make a lot of mistakes along the way, and I learn from them. And it's that searching, full of traps, that is the point....

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