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If you saw someone with a sign that said Free Hugs, would you walk by, smile and think, what a nutcase?

Would you pretend you didn’t see them?
Would you think this was a huge liability?
Would you think it an attempt to hurt someone?
Would you think this was some sort of perversion?
Would you be horrified that someone would want to hug a stranger?

Would you take them up on it?

I ran across a video about the Free Hugs Campaign and it struck me that all but one of these were probably the first thoughts when they saw the person with the sign. It’s true, I can be a sarcastic cynic with the best of them, but found myself thinking, why does it have to be that way?

While life is relatively calm in my little world in Middle Missouri, there are day-to-day struggles where a hug could make all the difference. But chaos, terror and fear doesn’t normally take center stage in my mind. I haven’t had any life-threatening experiences or devastating news lately. In other words, my life is such that I tend to take for granted the things and people around me. I have close friends here, but they’ve not had to rise to the occasion to talk me down from the ledge…lately.

But I know that’s not so in other worlds. Reading blogs has shown me there is a lot of angst out there. People searching for a meaning to their life. People who want to feel connected to something or someone. People who feel empty and lonely. People I just want to reach through the computer and hug, telling them better days are coming. But I can’t because we live in an age that is moving away from emotional interaction on a physical level.

Our social networking has left us with a void in human contact. It’s a strange parallel that the world has been brought closer together through the Internet, YouTube, social media, instant messaging, blogging and Skyping. But these very communication advances have caused vast social disconnectivity at the same time.

How easy has it become to sit at a computer and establish “relationships”? And as we become more entrenched in living in cyberspace, do we distance ourselves further from establishing healthy, physical relationships? While a cyberhug {{{{{HUG}}}}} is always appreciated from our bloggy buddies and facebook friends, it pales in comparison to having someone physically embrace life’s happiness, joy, angst, loneliness or sorrow with their arms intertwined in yours. We are created to be relational beings. The need to touch and be touched by others emotionally, spiritually…and physically is in our DNA.

The Free Hugs Campaign is a social movement phenomenon that began back in 2004. Hundreds of people have participated in countries around the world. Their message is simple. Perform a selfless, random act of kindness just to make another person feel better. A hug, even from a stranger, can make a difference in someone’s day.

Videos from around the world have been uploaded to YouTube showing the response to these events. Aside from it being in Italy, the one below is my favorite. The music is hauntingly addictive, and you may find yourself humming it all day.

Now, go out and hug someone.