Juan Mann gives free hugs to pedestrians in Sydney

Juan Mann had been living in London when his world turned upside down and he had to come home. By the time his plane landed back in Sydney, all he had left was a carry on bag full of clothes and a world of troubles. No one to welcome him back, no place to call home. He was a tourist in his hometown. Standing there in the arrivals terminal, watching other passengers meeting their waiting friends and family, with open arms and smiling faces, hugging and laughing together, he wanted someone out there to be waiting for him. To be happy to see him. To smile at him. To hug him. So he got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. He found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held that sign aloft, with the words “Free Hugs” on both sides.

And for 15 minutes, people just stared right through him. The first person who stopped, tapped him on the shoulder and told him how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. He got down on one knee, they put their arms around each other and when they parted, she was smiling.

This inspired him to continue offering free hugs. Sydney’s municipal police however quickly denied him that option claiming that he needed a $10 million public liability insurance. Juan disagreed and petitioned. His friends made a video about his struggle. The video went viral on the internet. It has been watched close to 100 million times so far.

It’s all OK now, and many around the world have been inspired to do also offer free hugs, just because.

Will you be the next one?