Every week I offer free hugs to people wherever I am, in the city of Peterborough in Chaplaincy work or wherever I do training. Without stretching the evangelly-jelly truth I can honestly write that I have hugged thousands of people over the past few years of looking like a pratt and standing with a free hug sign. It simply works. I wish I would do something far more clever, yet to reach out to people the free hug just speaks where words can’t.

It is of course a symbol…

*That God is closer than we may feel.
*To remind that people are loved.
*To express acceptance.
*To speak of the one who came to embrace the poor, lonely and outcast. Who knows us and despite us embraces us.

The free hug as ‘a connection’ reaches out to people in ways I have never seen in a street context. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a gimmick or methodology wrapped in covert real intentions to share the gospel. I hug because I love people. The moment I stop caring for how people are is the time I bin the free hug sign.

One of my fellow chaplain volunteers has an incredible gift in hugging people. She really does. When passing in their trucks, vans or fire engines I have seen people stop, jump out and receive a free hug. One woman today turned up for one of Sheila’s special hugs. Why? Because last week she had one. It was her first hug in TWO YEARS. No joke. She hadn’t been embraced all that time and on finding a willing lady to hug her the offer to come back for a second hug was too good to be true! She came back this week.

Have a look at the picture below. Sheila is hugged by a fire man who shares how he is carrying the burden of future cuts, many of his colleagues will loose their jobs in the coming months. By the way, he has had hugs before and each time Sheila shares something of the love of God.

And to be hugged by firemen? Well, for Sheila it’s a perk of the job.

2 thoughts on “The hug.

  1. I got doing the free hug thing a few weeks ago with The Light Project in Chester and I have to say it was a revelation. Some people ran to me to get hugged, others obviously wanted hugged, but couldn’t bring themselves to receive. Others refused, but always with a smile, and there’s the beauty of this for me. Offering a free hug has something innocent, non-threatening even naive about it. Who could be offended?

    I was surprised at how few people asked why, most, all but two, just got hugged, said thank you and continued Christmas shopping, in turn I asked God to bless them and hoped they had a happy day. The two who asked were just told that God loves them freely and warmly and wraps His arms around them. Giving out free hugs was wonderful.

    But I came back and found opposition when I discussed it with my team at church. Several of them had seen it abused, particularly amongst young people where a free hug became an opportunity for a free grope, rub up against or a cheeky bum squeeze. They had seen it done and over done and badly done, specifically at Soul Survivor and certainly didn’t want me offering free hugs on the streets of Linlithgow (small town in central Scotland).

    So I’m torn, I just don’t know if it’s something I can or should do here, in my context, in my town. I’m looking at other avenues for reaching the not yet Christians, but free hugs will always be close to my heart and will remain on my agenda until the time is right.

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