Thursday, November 16, 2006

Juan Mann, many hugs

Need a hug? (Doesn't everybody?) Here's a video which might help, at least in a virtual way:

Free Hugs Campaign. Inspiring Story! (music by sick puppies)
YouTube video, nearly 8.5 Mb

It shows Juan Mann (pronounced "one man"; a pseudonym, yes) and his supporters in the streets of Sydney, giving people hugs. Free hugs. For anybody who wants one. No strings, no expectations, no obligations - free. Now, wouldn't that be nice?

Actually, no. I'd be too self-conscious to hug a stranger, but that's a personal failing, and the idea is remarkable and worthy, so God bless them for doing it. The video is so heartwarming it makes me happy just watching it, which is why I recommend saving it to your computer so you can watch it too. I think of it as a type of vitamin whenever my faith in humanity needs a boost. Love in action, and it's lovely.

You might already be aware of this video anyway. It was uploaded to YouTube and earned instant stardom: a quarter of a million views in two days. The Free Hugs Campaign has gone global, leading to the launch of a Free Help Campaign, and so on.

But what interests me most is the way the whole thing started. As he says on his MySpace page and in a WHO interview, Mr Mann came back from London and found himself alone and lonely in Australia. One night at a party a random stranger hugged him, and it made him feel so great that he decided to share the love around and start offering hugs to others. One of those others was Shimon Moore, member of the band, Sick Puppies, who was at the time working a sandwich board in Pitt Street Mall, Sydney (scene of Juan's weekly hugging activity). The two became friends and eventually Shimon - wanting to make a documentary about something - shot the footage of Juan's hugging campaign. But he didn't get around to actually putting the video together until one night when he and the band were in LA. From his WHO interview:
It was made because I had hours of this footage and Juan called me up because his grandmother had died and he’s now caring for his blind grandfather as we speak. His head was just spinning around and I was out in LA, busy and I wanted to do something for him. So I turned the footage into a short film for him, which took me till the next morning but I just did it in one night. I sent it to him on a disc as a present and I wrote down 'This is who you are'.
Now if that doesn't bring tears to your eyes, smack yourself in the head, reader. And watch the video, do. It's lovely. Thanks to my own friend, Em, for sharing the link in the first place - hug to you, sir. And non-Em reader, a hug to you too. Come on. Be nice. "Clasp Me"**


** The sign on one of the Free Hugs Campaign banners shown in A Thankyou Message from Juan Mann (YouTube, 3.8 Mb)