Things are just settling down from a stressful afternoon of trouble shooting a computer virus…one that finally got me after a week of bogus emails coming in from every direction using the familiar names of my friends. Now I understand what it is about Free Hugs that tugs at my heart so strongly. It invites people, for a moment, to return to their innocence; something I feel that the virus mongers have forgotten.
Do you remember a time when you so sweetly wanted to hug everyone who passed your way? Your antennae had not yet developed to be on the lookout for anyone with malicious thoughts or motives. Perhaps, like my own early childhood, there was no one to be on the lookout for.
I grew up in small country towns on the fringes of Buffalo in Western New York. We moved often, yet from one town to the next, you could pretty much expect the same kind of atmosphere. Everyone in town knew who we were and what we were up to, yet no one ever thought of trying to upset the day by purposefully wreaking havoc in my Dad’s office and nobody ever heard of identity theft. It was a time when you could take your TV, radio, record player, or electric tools to a repairman and he would tell you, without charging you, if it was repairable or worth saving.
My mother, like many moms of that time, was perfectly comfortable allowing me to walk down the block to school, to a friend’s house, or the candy store by myself. Our only concerns about Halloween candy were rationing it out to avoid tummy aches, which kinds were our favorites to stash away, and which we would share with parents and friends.
The welcome mats of front and back doors were worn thin by neighbors and friends, who visited frequently and let themselves in after just a light knock and, “Hell-o-o.” Anybody home?” The postman, Mr. Hall, would sit to chat wherever anyone was offering a hot cup of coffee. We had a small angel carved in the woodwork of our front entry, by vagrant men who wanted those who would follow to know that this was a welcoming home. They were called “hobos” then and my mom always invited them in for a hearty meal and sent them off with a fresh shirt. My dad quite regularly picked up hitchhikers with no concern for their intention being anything but a ride to the place they needed to go.
Years later, my dad continued to live in small towns where he walked from the post office, to the general store, and the coffee shop calling everyone by their first name and they knew his as well. In the late nineties, just a few years before he passed away, I was visiting and marveled that the crime deemed to be the worst of the season made the headlines…a stolen jar of olives!
This is why I’ve often said I’m glad my dad chose to leave this world just short of a month before 911. He still had a good portion of his innocence in tact at the age of 72. What happened that September morning would have been too much for him to handle. And had he allowed me to get him a computer, he’d have probably thrown the darned thing in the trash at the first sign of someone tampering with his peace of mind.
The computer virus that happened today may be “just one of those things” that’s to be expected in this new millennium. As for this country girl, it is something I still don’t expect and will never get used to. Why would I want to get used to that? It may be naïve, yet they don’t call me Pollyanna for nothing; I’m glad I’ll be passing out Free Hugs this Valentine’s weekend. It is my hope that, whenever and wherever Free Hugs is happening around the world, at least some of the people at the receiving end will be the ones who have nothing better to do than to cause other people stress with their malevolent ideas and talents. I hope the hugs they receive opens their hearts just wide enough for a spark of LOVE to enter…innocence remembered. And from that spark, may a creative fire burn out of control…a fire that turns them toward using their brilliance and cunning for something that will change the world for the BETTER!
Enjoy the video (copy and paste link below)and please join us for Free Hugs Philly, Saturday, February 12th, 2011 at 2:30pm at the LOVE sculpture, 16th St. and JFK Blvd.