A tall man walking purposefully came down the aisle, wearing an old style fedora hat with his long coat open I could see the well- fitted suit underneath. He stopped across from our booth in the narrow common area and set a large box on the floor.
My colleague continued her rambling even though I was no longer looking at her. Many of the attendees were gathering in front of us obstructing my view so I could only see his hat as he moved around. Curiosity growing I excused myself offering to get coffee for my colleague and I, she released me from the never-ending account of her families' events on a previous weekend.
Being 5’6” in heels I felt swallowed up in the heard of people occupying the noisy aisle as I made my way over to the man in the hat. He stood alone now, the group of patrons having discovered whatever it was he was selling had moved on to the next booth. He smiled wide directly at me as I approached, and motioned to the box to his right. There was a sign marked in bold letters, it read ‘Free Hugs’. I chuckled, smiling a polite smile I looked at him again.
Before I could walk away as I was intending now, that I too had solved the mystery he spoke to me. “Can I please give you a hug?” His voice kind and solemn, it surprised me.
Doubt and miss-trust of hugging a stranger that had been my automatic reaction to the sign, suddenly faded and I stood there silently contemplating the possible outcomes of being hugged by this man.
He smiled warmly at me, and repeated his request. Decision made, I took a few more steps to meet him. He didn’t move. Behind his wire-framed glasses, he didn’t break eye contact with me since he asked, and there I saw the mere human connection that had been waiting for me. “Yes, thank you.” I finally replied, and moved into his personal space, he was quite tall, 6’2” if I had to guess.
He leaned over me with arms outstretched, and began to hug me, feeling safe I hugged him back. Holding me in a unique embrace, it was a hug from the heart. I felt myself surrender as I hugged this stranger with my whole heart. He stopped first, and we ended up a few inches apart when the hug was over.
“Thank you for that.” He said in a most wonderful way, I realized I had made him happy. Offering me a business card that simply said ‘Free Hug’. I took it, thanked him for the hug, turned and walked away. The feeling of happiness overflowing inside me, I found myself humming. Tucking the ‘Free Hug’ card into my pocket, I began looking forward to offering it to a future stranger.