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Hug #16

October 15, 2010

Sara and Beth
Wednesday, October 13 1:00-2:00 pm (central time)
Adams St. bridge (West of Wacker), Chicago

Despite a chill in the October air, all you need to keep warm is a hug.

Once the hug is done, you will need a sweater.

Wednesday awoke to torrential rain.  The sky darkened as if The Nothing was coming to decimate Chicago.  Nevertheless, I packed my bag of red clothes and headed downtown…on the Red Line. Whether or not the weather would cooperate, we did not know, so I stopped to purchase a red umbrella–a donation to the Hug Project for that day when rain and hug finally intersect.  This day, the hug managed yet again to elude the storm, making the score 16 and 0.  Miracle?  Mother Nature fond of hugs? All I know is, as I stood on the Adams Street bridge in my little red yoga shoes, I didn’t question our luck–I simply hugged.

On the walk over, Sara filled me in on her hug modus operandi.  Far be it from me to divulge her method, but suffice it to say that I felt prepared for our endeavor.  Arriving at our destination, we placed the HUG sign near the street side of the bridge, but decided to stand downwind toward the river once we tied the trademark red balloons to our wrists.  After all, the intention of our hug is not to ambush passers-by with helium filled orbs, but rather to quietly and gently attract attention and consideration from the aware and the perceptive.  That we did.

Sara faced West, towards Union Station, towards the sun’s resting place, towards California.  I, of course, faced East, towards the Art Institute, towards Bethlehem.  At first, I kept my eyes closed.  My beginner’s nerves drew me inward.  After a while though, I began to watch people coming and going from my field of vision.  People who passed east-bound often glanced back hurriedly, as though seeking confirmation for what they thought they just saw.  I smiled.  I began to smile more at folks, to share what a nice thing it is to hug and be hugged, what a lucky and wonderful world in which we sometimes live.  The hug made me happier.

People seemed to reflect my own increasing happiness.  I began noticing more people taking fliers from the HUG sign, some even going out of their way or turning back to grab one.  People said “Hi,” as they passed.  One lady said, “That is one LOOOONG hug!”  A pair of girls hugged one another as they got to the far end of the bridge, turned back, and hugged us.  Near the end of our hug hour, Sara informed me that a man on her side was sketching us.  When he was finished, the artist came over and introduced himself.  Emil A. Sauer showed us the sketch–a truly sweet and loving impression of our embrace.  Then he chatted with us for a while and even took photos of his sketch and of our hug (check ’em out in the media folder).  You can learn more about Emil at his website.

All too soon, an hour had passed and it was time to disentangle our windblown balloons from one another.  As is the custom, Sara tied two balloons to the bridge railing in the location of our hug.  I scanned up and down the street for children on whom we might bestow the other two balloons, but to no avail.  Instead, we tied them together and released them upward over the river, one strong balloon pulling the reluctant other ever higher into the windy, sunny afternoon.

It was then that a chill set in.  Why did I leave my scarf under Sara’s desk?  Who knew that a hug could keep you so warm?  I went on my way that day, feeling warm on the inside–full of a genuine, almost maniacal affection for humanity, and smiling far too much for my own good in downtown.  And it hasn’t rained since.

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