Sometimes what you receive during the holiday season doesn’t fit into a nice, neat package under the Christmas tree.
Case in point: A hug from a loved one. Or a hug from Kelowna’s Free Hugs Team.
On Boxing Day, the Free Hugs Team gathered at The Sails downtown and gave out warm hugs on a cold, snowy day.
Angie Clowry of the Free Hugs Team said “not everyone receives presents at Christmas. Nor does everyone love Christmas. But we all deserve a hug.”
Clowry added “we hug everyone from retirees, athletes, children, dogs, doctors to our communities’ most vulnerable. All we ask is that you bring your own free hug sign and take it with you when you leave for next year.”
“This is our eighth year doing this,” said Monique Saebels, who was also out on Boxing Day, giving free hugs. “We have done it in memory of a friend of ours, Wayne Cobb, who passed away and he was a big hugger. And so we come out every year and hug as many people as we can.”
Saebels is one of many huggers that has been doing this since the first year. Her favourite memory? A homeless man who started off a bit apprehensive about being touched.
“He said that he hadn’t been hugged most of his life and that it felt so wonderful to have someone who didn’t even know him,” said Saebels. “He hugged me for about five minutes. It felt amazing. That’s why I’m here.”
Meanwhile, Ayla Cooper, a first-year hugger, said “I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since I got here.”
“I think it makes them feel wanted and, around the holidays, not everyone feels wanted,” she added. “So I think it’s nice after Christmas to just have this.”
So, what’s the best way to hug?
According to these huggers, it includes a positive approach, friendliness, leaning in and making it genuine.
Why do they do this?
“Because I love hugging,” said one person. “It makes me feel good and it makes other people feel good.”
That was definitely true. All types of people from all walks of life strolled away with a big smile and just a little more pep to their step.
“It was warm and not cold,” said a little girl after getting a free hug.
Saebels added “there’s so many people who come to us and they haven’t been hugged in years. It’s that close contact they don’t get, so they love it. They come out here, give us big hugs and we just love everybody.”
One thing’s for sure: Hugging and making people feel great is highly addictive, so get out there and give someone a hug.