Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Free Hugs and Acts of Kindness

I first saw this YouTube video a few years ago. I thought the concept of Free Hugs very unique and touching. Well...for some people, maybe too "touching". Hugging someone you don't know can be uncomfortable. Last year, I had a big debate with my extended family, out visiting from California, about whether "free hugs" were inappropriate. I was part of a Random Acts of Kindness Meetup group and there was a Free Hugs event that I wanted to attend. I eventually talked some of my family into going with me. It was an interesting experience, but I admit, I ended up feeling a little reluctant to hug people I didn't know. My geek side is much more comfortable with "virtual hugs" with strangers in the form of social media greetings or blog comments.

Though I can see how hugging may be a little too touchy-feely for a first encounter, I'm especially moved when a stranger is kind to me. There are a lot of examples, especially via the Web, to "connect". Today I got an email from someone I'd met very briefly at the Renaissance Festival last month, and she sent me digital photos she'd taken. Yesterday I got taken to lunch by someone that had read my "SuperFrug" blog post. Recently, I was congratulated on the birth of my grandson from someone who lived in Spain! These random acts of kindness are happening every day. Social Media and the web have made it easier for us to have conversations with strangers and share of ourselves. And soon we're no longer strangers. That is so cool.

Some people are skeptical when they're approached by a stranger. "What do they want?" is always the question. And it's true...sometimes, especially in the world of social networks, often a comment from a stranger means they want you to connect or to follow them or to read their blog or buy their product. But sometimes, they just are truly kind and not expecting anything in return. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Accept the kindness and don't question it. If you feel like reciprocating, then do. If you don't, then don't. But reaching out or accepting a "virtual hug" is easy and you run little risk of invading anyone's personal space. If people are blogging or on the social networks, they're inviting your comments. So go out and give some virtual hugs in the form of emails or comments to strangers today, with no ulterior motive other than it feels good.

Want to do more? Check out Random Acts of Kindness. Make the world a better place.

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