A little before Christmas, the CEO of the company I work for sent me the following youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4 I thought it was such a cool idea. How simple but profound...free hugs. I then visited www.freehugscampaign.org and read what this was all about. My take on it was that it was a great way to show others that time and compassion are much more valuable than any gift that can be bought in a store. Lafayette, LA isn't the type of city that has heavy foot traffic. The only place I knew would be packed Christmas Eve day would be the mall. Even better!!! While people are running frantic to find that "perfect gift", a hug or the idea of a hug could shed some light and help them to remember that it's about people, not things.
So I went down to the mall on December 23rd with my great spinoff idea. I'm just smitten, thinking to myself that I'll make this an annual thing. For those of you who didn't click on the above links....here's the plan, in a nutshell. I was planning to hold a sign that says "FREE HUGS". People who want or need one can approach and hug me. Those who don't want to can pass me by. Simple right?
I went to the mall office (i didn't even know one existed until I spoke to customer service). I met with a young man in his office. I asked permission for the above plan. He sat laid back with one foot propped (on a coffee table I think) and asked a series of questions. His main concern was that people were going to feel violated. Their personal space is at stake! To answer that concern, I explained that there is no violation of personal space. No one would be approached or spoken to unless they approached me. He decided to give me an example. The booths in the middle aisles of the mall where the salespeople use very aggressive sales tactics to where they stand in your way, violates people's personal space. HHmmm...okay...then why are they in the mall if that is a major concern of yours? I wonder to him. The response was that it's contractual and he has no control over it. Okay....
On the the next obstacle, which was that I would need a MILLION DOLLAR insurance policy to be able to do this on the mall premises. This shouldn't be a big deal I'm thinking to myself. I could make a phone call my my liability insurance agent and find out if it would cover this. But for what? So I inquired of the reason. He responded that I could get hurt such as slipping and falling. Again, I wondered aloud....Every person in the mall could potentially slip and fall, do you require your shoppers to carry million dollar policies?
My mission wasn't to inspire others to hug strangers. It was beyond that. I was hoping to inspire others to think outside the box. I was hoping to shock folks with the oddity of it all. My mission was to help people realize that ANYONE can do charity work. Think simple. Well, this guy didn't get it and he wasn't having it in his mall.
To shut me up, his bottom line was actually that he doesn't think that the mall is the best place to test drive this idea. Fair enough. I asked where would he suggest an idea like this would be more acceptable. He actually had a couple of good ideas....social events and college campus. I thanked him and left.
Out of curiosity, before leaving, I asked what would have happened to me if I would have gave out free hugs in the mall without consulting him. He informed me that I would have been arrested on trespassing and assault charges. WOW!
I was in awe. My mind played back to when I visited YouTube and the site for Free Hugs. I read briefly on how Free Hugs were banned but didn't pay much mind to it. I thought that was absurd. How can you have a law against hugging people who want to be hugged? I realized that the guy I spoke to at the mall did his job well. I'm not criticizing him. He's doing what he knows needs to be done because of past experience, I'm sure. It just makes me sad that there is so much red tape for something as simple as this. Come to think of it, there is red tape and precaution for EVERYTHING. Why is that you think? I would love here others ideas on this....