Changing the world one hug at a time

Written by evan on September 14, 2007 at 9:55 AM

I wrote an article for the local mattoon newspaper. Journal Gazette

Here is the article.

It was a sunny day as I drove toward Charleston from Mattoon this past Monday afternoon. I could feel the wind whipping through my car, as I had the windows down and the air conditioning blaring, as I typically drive short distances.

As I was getting close to Charleston I grabbed my cell and updated my online blog about my upcoming adventure that day.

As I got into town, I realized that I needed some change so that I could plug a parking meter on campus. So I stopped at the first gas station I saw.

As I pulled in, I had the thought of “How am I going to be able to go up to the register and just ask for change?” So when I walked into the gas station, I grabbed the closest thing I could find — a pack of Wintergreen gum for 30 cents.

As I paid with a $20 bill, I asked for a dollar in change. Finally, I was on my way to do what I came to accomplish in Charleston that day.

I got back into my car, proceeded to go toward the Union parking lot on campus, and quickly found a parking space. I got out and filled the meter with an hour’s worth of change. As I reached into my car to close and lock the door, I grabbed my 3-foot by 2-foot sign that read “Free Hugs” on both sides.

This day was a special day because it was Monday, Sept. 10, National Free Hugs Day. National Free Hugs Day is a day declared by the Free Hugs Campaign as a day that they promoted free hugs around the world.

So as I held on to my sign, I started to walk to the quad, where most of the student foot traffic would be. As I was walking out of the metered parking lot I passed a couple of meters that were either flashing “expired” or that had a couple of minutes left on them. I reached down into my pocket and put a coin or two in each of them, since I had all that extra change from the gas station.

And I was off. I was off to the quad, my destination. It was at the crossroads, where four sidewalks that seemed to merge into one, that I stood.

At times I would hold the sign above my head, with both arms up and then sometimes with one arm up. Once in a while my arms would get tired, so I would drop them down and just hold the sign in front of me.

Within several minutes the hug-a-thon began. I was getting hugs all over the place, and from all sorts of people. I hugged muscular football player-type guys, to girls who were wearing iPod buds. All different types of hugs, too.

Some hugs I gave and received were with two arms around and a tight squeeze where my back almost popped; some were just a side hug, with barely an arm around each other.

After the free hug, I would engage in a simple conversation with the students with phrases such as “Have a great day” or “Pay attention in class” or even the occasional “You are cared about.”

After every hug, the expression of every person, girl or guy, athletic or overachiever, was a smile.

As a Christian, I have to recognize that Jesus has done some incredible heart changes in my life. I could list bullet point after bullet point of what Jesus has done in my life.

I went out on a warm Monday afternoon to EIU to do one thing and it was this; Jesus has changed my life in so many ways that I believe that Jesus’ desire is for me to bring change to others’ lives.

Jesus has changed me to bring change to this world, and for me on that day it was through one hug at a time.

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