Arrested for Hugging

An item on the news caught my eye recently. In Nanjing, China, police arrested 11 people on the street – for hugging. It seems that these eleven individuals had decided that it would be a good idea to put up some signs and offer a free hug to anybody that wanted one.

Now, in a world filled with stress, anger and hate, going around and hugging other people sounds like a brilliant idea to me. I know it sounds very “Hippy Sixties,” but I can tell you that it’s a great alternative to what I see going on in the world today. Wherever I go today, as a customer, as a supplier, as a fellow human being, I encounter coldness, apathy, and a sense of resentment, that fills me with despair. If ever I was to be arrested, I’d love it to be for hugging.

Why is it that the world has become so aloof and cold? Is it fear? That’s what some of the experts tell us. It seems that we are so scared of the horrible world that we have become increasingly more isolated from one another. Another school of thought says that we fear making ourselves vulnerable to rejection. Perhaps we feel it is beneath us to love and to seek love from others. Or maybe it is because we are so angry with governments, companies, sports administrators, religious leaders, and all the other power-hungry megalomaniacs who try to manipulate us for their reasons.

I don’t know, but I really believe that we need to challenge the apathy and indifference, and to replace it with more hugging. Yes, there is ugliness and pain in the world, but equally so there is also beauty and wonder and joy. The world is not such a terrible place, and the only hope that we have as a human race is to love each other, rather than hate, to reach out and serve, rather than be indifferent.

Some recently published research on happiness came to a number of really magically simple conclusions about what we can do to become happier in our lives:

  • Count your blessings: Start a “Gratitude Journal” in which you weekly write down three to five things for which you are grateful, from the mundane, to the magnificent.
  • Practice random and systematic acts of kindness: To both friends and strangers. The consequences are very positive – to them and to you.
  • Savour life’s joys: Play close attention to momentary pleasures and wonders. Take “mental photographs” of these for less happy times.
  • Thank a person that has helped you become who you are: If there’s someone that you owe a debt of gratitude for their guidance or help or acceptance, don’t wait to express your appreciation, in person if possible.
  • Learn to forgive, and to let go of anger and resentment: This is the hardest one for most of us. Write a letter of forgiveness – even if you don’t send it – and get back your peace of mind. Remember that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick!
  • Invest time and energy in friends and family: Strong personal relationships are more important than where you live, how much you earn, your job, and even your health. There is an old expression that says “Misery loves company.” It’s just simply not true. How do you bring joy to your life and to that of others?
  • Take care of your body: Get plenty of rest, exercise, stretching, smiling, laughing, and stimulation, and practice these daily.
  • Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships: You can’t avoid hard times, but you can have a belief system that helps you to cope. This usually includes religious faith, but also secular beliefs like, “Nothing lasts forever.” Sports coach John Wooden wrote: “Too often we get distracted by what is outside our control. You can’t do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away. You can do nothing about tomorrow. It is yet to come. However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. You have control over that.”

Many of you will remember Dr. Leo Buscaglia – the so-called “Love Professor” from UCLA who recorded a number of his presentations in the 1980s and 1990s. In one video called Only You can Make the Difference, he shared many many wonderful ideas, but he was also great proponent of hugging.

But one of the things that I remember from the video was a statement he quoted from the Dalai Lama of Tibet. When asked about what is the purpose of life, he replied: “The purpose of life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, would you at least not hurt them?”

Azar Jamine, CEO of Econometrix, a company based in Johannesburg, once made a presentation in which he said: “_Business needs to wake up to the fact that just making money is an empty goal without contributing to the betterment of life of your fellow human beings._” I couldn’t agree more.

Hugging is a very important part of my life, and I am very sorry for people who are unable to experience it regularly. I remember once bumping into my brother at a shopping centre somewhere, and, in our usual fashion, we gave each other a big bear hug. A woman was walking past at the time, wheeling a trolley. She took one look at us, was absolutely disgusted, and said: “Blerrie queers!” So this is what the world has become: two brothers showing some affection are accused of being queer.

Your customers’ memories of your kindness & helpfulness will extend well beyond the end of this uncertain economy. We have been given a magical opportunity to do something nice for them.

So stand up and make your statement – If there’s something that needs to be done, do it now. Choose joy and laughter and warmth rather than pessimism and despair. Choose to go for more, rather than less. Choose more enthusiasm and passion, not less. Choose to appreciate all of the wonderful things around us, and to not dwell on the ugliness.

Above all, choose friendship and service rather than indifference

(And the Nanjing huggers? What happened to them? Well, they were all released about an hour later with a warning to not arrange a gathering again without permission, and to stop doing these crazy and depraved things that corrupted society. Go figure.)

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