Free Hugs - Rio de Janeiro

I organised a Free Hugs event for last Thursday in Rio de Janeiro. It was very short notice, and together with being on a weekday - and being a gringo organising an event in their home town - there weren't too many locals that were overly enthusiastic to join - actually none. Though there was one Brazilian girl from Belem who brought her beautiful energy a little while later.

For the first 45 minutes I was the only person hugging - 2 other people came but only watched. I still continued hugging, but it was slow. People were not very trusting, but I could see many people smiling as they walked past, which is still enough - this is still a success. Even if one happy thought enters someone's mind and they feel a little uplifted, and their psychology - and hence their body chemistry - changes slightly simply from seeing me then that is still a good result.

Then things began to pick up, and more people began to hug me. Eventually 4 other people came to help out and there was a good little energy in Largo da Carioca, in Lapa. Some women saw us from the23rd story of the building next to the square and came down especially for a hug. A man in a nearby shop took a break from his live, vocal advertising and started telling people to come over for a free hug. Later, a TV camera came from a news station and filmed me hugging. They asked, "Why are you doing this?" I said, "Why not? To spread love and happiness."

And since then I've had a few people recognise me on the street, and yell out "Abracos Gratis" as I pass them and then come over for a free hug - this includes people from local businesses and homeless people and people from the slums, i.e. the favelas. Everyone appreciates a good hug and a random exchange of positive energy.

Overall it was good, but I think the people of Rio are a little reserved and suspicious of strangers. They are a very warm people, and lovely people, but I guess the history of crime in Rio has made people very aware of strangers approaching them - no matter how pure their motives. Though many people smiled and laughed and appreciated the idea - even if they didn't hug - there were still a great number of people who avoided eye-contact and rushed by, eager to get past me. I felt like chasing after these people and forcing a hug onto them to show them there is much love in the world, and everyone is welcome to a share of it :)

Free Hugs puts both the hugger and the huggee into a vulnerable position, both submitting themselves to rejection. It challenges someone to step out of their comfort zone - into unknown territory - with the hope of being accepted. Hence, when that embrace does happen, the exchange of energy is so much more beautiful and rewarding. The change in a person's body and spirit is immeasurable - even if it may not seem apparent. Go out today, meet a random person and exchange a sincere free hug. Come on... help change the world!

Muitos abracos gratis to you all,