Free hugs

February 14. A day where couples buy each other small gifts to show their love for one another. A day when best friends are silly, write corny jokes and stick them in each other’s lockers. A day when husbands ‘surprise’ their wives with some flowers or chocolate. A day when it is apparently acceptable to sell a single rose for a ridiculous price of up to $5.

Today, we did things a bit differently at school. I decided we should make Valentine’s Day a fun day where everyone could appreciate the friendships they have with their school mates and share the love. I made small cards with a few words from the Bible saying how much God loves us and the Year 12s handed them out to all the students. We dressed up in red and pink with signs that read ‘Free Hugs’. Kids would run up to us and get a hug, then we would give them a label reading, “I’ve been hugged. Have you? Happy Valentine’s Day.” To be honest I think they enjoyed getting stickers more than the hugs. Some kids would come over and say, “Can I just have a sticker please?” and I had to try and tell them, “Well sweetie, you have to get a hug first.” Then they would run away as I opened up my arms. I’m not that scary, really.

One little boy in Grade 5 was sitting at a table with two of his friends. I went up to them and asked if they wanted a free hug. The other two friends looked at me weirdly and were clearly not interested. I assumed the little boy would follow what his friends were doing and not want a hug either, so I was about to leave when he jumped up excitedly and said, “Wait Jess, can I have a hug?” I turned around smiling and of course I said yes! I gave him a hug and a label and then moved on to the next bunch of kids sitting at a lunch table. A few minutes later the same boy came up to me again and said, “I know I’ve already had a hug, but can I have another one?” I was amazed. This boy was going out of his way just to get a hug. 

It wasn’t a big deal for me, dressing up and giving hugs to the kids at school. I was just spreading the vibe of Valentine’s Day and sharing the love. Girls were coming up to me with stickers plastered all over their uniforms. Not even halfway through lunchtime and I had a group of Year 7 girls following me hugging other kids and sharing their labels. It made me realise how much of an impact us ‘big kids’ have on the younger ones. They look up to us so much and just by doing simple things like remembering their name or giving out free hugs made their day. What really made me smile was the fact that they were joining in and spreading the love too. A chain reaction; almost like a domino effect of hugs.

So next Valentine’s Day, go out of your way to make someone else smile. It can be as simple as giving them a hug or just writing them an unsigned note saying ‘someone loves you.’ Those things make a big difference, whether you know it or not.

Keep smiling. x

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