To hold another person in your arms is an everyday gesture, but a very beautiful one. For a moment, the barriers that stand between us break down, and the feeling of giving and receiving is in equilibrium. Last Sunday, holding posters and armed with chocolate but with no set plan, around 20 of us took to the streets to give free hugs.
Our open display of affection towards people that we didn’t know was met with many questions. Often they weren’t asked in an unpleasant way, but out of genuine confusion about the notion of giving. It became clear that the idea that a stranger would reach out to another with the simple aim of making them happy is a very alien concept to us humans! When someone offers us something and doesn’t ask for anything in return, our immediate response isn’t to accept the gift with a whole and happy heart, but instead to question their intent. How much money do they want? Which political party are they from? Which product are they promoting? Because we are conditioned to focus on what we can get from other people, I suppose that it’s become natural for us to assume that others are always trying to get something from us.
‘We’re spreading love!’ is the line we ended up adopting to answer questions and explain what we were doing, and everyone we met became a part of it. Those who hugged got the chance to give without expectation and receive without skepticism, but those who felt too doubtful, self-conscious or uncomfortable were just as important as those who embraced us with open arms. We reminded them that love for one another is vital, and introduced the idea that this could extend to people whom you didn’t know, as well as those who are already ‘loved ones’. Even the half smiles, (or smirks, but let’s be optimistic), from men on bikes who were passing by were rewarding. Instead of a hug, the happiness we sparked off might have manifested itself later in the day in a beautiful way unknown to us. At the end of the day, we found ourselves sitting in a circle of people of different ages and backgrounds, some who had been with us from the start, and others who had heard music and felt like joining us. For a short time we played the guitar and sang, sipped chai, shared ideas and enjoyed each other’s presence, the random nature of the group making the open feeling even more remarkable. It was the most meaningful way to end our celebration of the connection that exists between all people if you chose to see it.
Gandhi ji said that ‘the law of love could be best understood and learned through little children’, and it’s clear that one of the many lessons they can teach us is to love each other without having to ask why. They saw and understood how simple our intention was and took so much joy in receiving our gift.
Some might call this naïvety, but I’d suggest that it’s actually a kind of purity which we could all inspire to. If this is something we can learn, then life might feel less like a zero-sum game, and we will all start to profit on love.