A few years ago, Meta decided to support Comic Relief in a different way, by offering almost free hugs in Worcester city centre, in return for a donation to Comic Relief.
It was one of the most wonderful days I have spent, just hugging people! It was a moving, warm, joyous experience, and the way people reacted really made us realise how non-tactile our society has become. Every age and type of person did decide that they would have a hug for charity, some with absolute certainty, some more hesitantly. Many parents sent their children to have the hug, but were quite pleased when we offered them one too. Even those who found the whole idea just too embarrassing or ‘out there’ tended to walk past with a smile on their faces.
Of those who did have hugs, there were some who really moved us: the pensioners who hadn’t had a hug for months, even years; the teenagers who kept coming back with another few coins for another hug – does no-one ever hug teenage boys?!; and the little children who just snuggled in because to them it was the most natural thing in the world. We collected a lot of money for Comic Relief, which was great, but maybe more important than that, we had the delight of hugging and being hugged by many many people.
What the whole experience made me realise was how deprived we have become of human physical contact. It is necessary for our mental and physical well-being – proven by scientists studying those who are not cuddled as babies – yet we have so many ‘rules’ about touch that many of us have become afraid to reach out and hug another person.
So please, hug your family, your friends, your colleagues, and ask for hugs from them. At the very least, hold a hand, put your arm around a shoulder, touch someone’s arm. It can provide more reassurance than a thousand words, and is a simple way of saying that you care.