On Saturday, my friends and I had the first of three events for the In One Day Project -Day of Joy. From 10am to 5 pm, we spent the day in several parks in DC. The purpose of the event was to devote our day to spreading smiles and a bit of happiness to the DC community through free hugs and laughter yoga.
A majority of people were open to receiving a hug -some more enthusiastically than others. At Eastern Market, one man joined us in our efforts after he shared how we have turned his day around during a time of many family emergencies. Several people at Franklin Square expressed gratitude for us in the project and how the city needs love more than ever.
However, there was the other half that were not appealed by the thought of two strangers briefly sharing a moment of connection and appreciation. Some politely refused and ackowledged our efforts with a smile while making a joke about how they get plenty of hugs from their accompanying girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/etc.
Then, there were those very few who were not entertained by the idea at all. Now, we did not want to make people uncomfortable so we intentionally did not make advances. We let people come to us. Nonetheless, one woman put her arm out in defense as she walked by us. Another woman cowered to the other side of her friend walking alongside her. Most of those uninterested did not acknowledge our presence at all. Even though we had prepared ourselves with the inevitable rejections, it did not go without feeling a bit hurt after having put yourself out there and not even being granted a glance.
What I thought was going to be a silly way to spend a Saturday was actually a very insightful experience. The positive reactions were overwhelming – more than what we ever intended. More importantly, though, we were exposed to the disconnect between people. Perhaps those people who did not react to us or were frightened/repulsed by us are not generally in an isolated mindset. Regardless, one thing is clear: the city, and the world, needs to smile more. Laugh more. Look at people in the eye more. Love more. Live more. Open ourselves more to spontaneity and shared experience with the people who surround us.
It took an entire Saturday and over 400 hugs, but it was worth it for that lesson to have become clear, personal, and ingrained in my mind to continue to approach life with open arms ready to embrace.