As a member of the Richmond Queer League, I volunteered to participate today in Free Hugs Day, a global movement to share hugs. No activism, no fliers, no sales pitch, just hugs.
My assignment: stand outside between Saks Fifth Avenue, Brooks Brothes, and Louis Vuitton at the Stony Point Fashion Park, near my home, with a handmade sign saying FREE HUGS. Smile, be friendly but don’t approach anyone, and give a hug to all those who want one.
A man approached me, walking his very large dog. The man didn’t want a hug, but he did want me to reach out to his dog to help break him of his shyness. The dog sniffed my hand.
Thats as good as it got. An older woman pulled two children away from me. Other folks pretended not to see me (hard to do, at my height, with my sign, my earrings, my clerical collar, and my snap fedora).
Five minutes into my efforts, Security arrived. “Reverend, I’m afraid you can’t do that here.”
I smiled, told him I knew he was doing his job. In the mall office, Joe D. Frye, Jr., General Manager, graciously told me he had seen information about this movement, started by a man in Australia a few years ago, on Oprah! He agreed that in today’s world hugs are a good thing.
Just not in his mall. “If we let you do it, Reverend, then everybody will want to do something….where would it stop?”
I suggested that maybe next year he’d like to organize FREE HUGS as a mall promotion. “I’m pretty sure folks will still need them,” I said.
Joe said it sounded like a good idea.
I guess if you can make a buck giving away hugs it might be okay. Just don’t do it for free.
I wonder: is this what got Jesus in trouble?