The Boot or: How We Got Kicked Out of the Mall for Hugging People for Free

thebootsMy religion is simple. My religion is kindness.

~ The Dalai Lama (1935 – )

There is the older lady, arms overloaded with packages and wearing a determined gaze, who stopped, cocked her head and smiled, sat down her bags and wrapped her arms around me.

There is the little child, wrapped in fluffy red and white, who hugged my son’s girlfriend tightly around her neck as she stooped to meet him at his level.

There are the two burly teenagers, with the stocking caps pulled low and smartphones held high, snapping pictures, who gave my youngest son such big hugs that they lifted him off the ground, laughing all the way. 

These, and others, to varying degrees, will remember what we did. 

I laid down the basics before we went in:

We do not represent any organization.  We do not to ask for anything or approach anybody.  We just hold up our signs offering “Free Hugs” and let the people come to us. 

We hug and smile.

And later, we write a letter to the editor . . .

Thank you, Glenbrook Square Mall, for showing us the door.
My family and I had wanted to spread some holiday cheer, so we made some “Free Hugs” signs, gathered around the mall fountain, and hugged a bunch of smiling people. For about ten minutes.
Then Local Law Enforcement told us to leave. Said we were “soliciting” and that the only thing the mall allowed on their private property was “shopping and eating.”
Me and my family? We represented no group. No religious organization or philanthropic endeavor other than the obvious one – kindness toward humanity. We asked for no money, nor did we pass out any literature.
True, we didn’t ask for permission, figuring forgiveness might come easier. We didn’t push hugs on anyone. Just held up our signs and let the people come.
And they came. We spread kindness. And got the boot.
I had hoped to teach a lesson, about compassion, giving instead of getting, kindness and all that. Instead, we learned a lesson about the boot, and how it hurts most those whose hearts are (still) filled with the true spirit of the season . . .


[Flickr photo is by Lin Pernille Photography and is protected]


10 thoughts on “The Boot or: How We Got Kicked Out of the Mall for Hugging People for Free

  1. Even though you got kicked out I still think this was a wonderful thing to do and I’m sure your family did learn about compassion, giving instead of getting and kindness. I’m sure they experienced it with the hugs they did give out.

  2. That is sad and lame. But it was a wonderful and well-meant effort, and I’m sure those who you hugged were touched… that’s what matters, right?

  3. ah burocracy

    people with a job to do and can’t see past it.

    In my local shopping mall they’ve taken away the benches with backs on, meaning its uncomfortable to sit for long times, meaning you spend more time in the shops – i guess anything that detracts from the shopping…

    But seriously?? Soliciting? Where else could you find such stupidity but in a jobsworth security person (sigh)

  4. Free hugs — that was a great thought! Much needed around the holiday season. I see some humor in this, too. Remember the various people hanging around the airport in the movie “Airplane”?

    One of my notes to self is, “Give more hugs.” I hope your family continues to do so.

  5. That is ridonkulous!! You may have inspired me to carry it forward in Greece though… I wonder which friends I can rope into this…

    A beautiful sentiment nonetheless. If only everyone was a hugger.

  6. Hey, I tagged you for a post on my blog; you don’t have to do it but it might be fun!

  7. That is just awful.

    Some days my faith in humanity is sorely tested.

  8. What an brave initiative! Similar issues with shopping malls appropriating what people previously thought of as public space in the UK – throwing out grandparents for snapping pictures of their children etc. Worst case was heavy-handed to the point of assault reaction of security guards to staff protesting about the closure of the local *public* library which was housed on the mall’s property.

    Mall’s are evil.

  9. I just had this very same thing happen to me!!

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