It has been almost 14 years since Australian man Juan Mann first stood in a city square with a large cardboard sign that read “Free Hugs”—but his iconic campaign has left a lasting imprint on the world.
Mann popularized the slogan after he filmed his Free Hugs Campaign music video to the Sick Puppies song “All the Same” back in 2006—and it has since been viewed a whopping 78 million times.
So for all of you who may be feeling down and lonely during these turbulent times of social distancing, we’re reposting this video for #ThrowbackThursday to remind you that these stay-at-home restrictions are only temporary and our communities will be stronger as a result of it.
For more inspiration, here is Mann’s story about how he was first inspired to launch his Free Hugs campaign.
I’d been living in London when my world turned upside down and I’d had to come home. By the time my plane landed back in Sydney, all I had left was a carry on bag full of clothes and a world of troubles. No one to welcome me back, no place to call home. I was a tourist in my hometown.
Standing there in the arrivals terminal, watching other passengers meeting their waiting friends and family, with open arms and smiling faces, hugging and laughing together, I wanted someone out there to be waiting for me. To be happy to see me. To smile at me. To hug me.
So I got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. I found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held that sign aloft, with the words “Free Hugs” on both sides.
And for 15 minutes, people just stared right through me. The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.
Everyone has problems and for sure mine haven’t compared. But to see someone who was once frowning, smile even for a moment, is worth it every time.
(WATCH the heartwarming video below)
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