~ 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 . . .