Free Hugs Campaign

A video that goes along with my most recent post.


“Always Be a Little Kinder Than Necessary”


I’m young and naïve; so people tell me. My parents say that to me on a daily basis. Although, in my short 21 years of life, I like to believe that I’ve discovered a simple truth in life. If you’re good to people, then people will be good to you. This is my life’s philosophy. I think I heard it in a movie, but I can’t remember which one. Even though I’m blanking on the source, this idea has always been the guiding principle for my actions. Luckily, my parents also believe this philosophy so it’s ingrained into my way of life since birth. Although, as I get older, and have already had many wonderful life experiences, I’ve seen this idea become a reality. I’ve met so many people who are just full of love and compassion, and open to connection. At first, I just thought I was insanely lucky. I’d share my stories with friends, and they’d always say how I always had the good fortune of meeting such wonderful people. But lately, I’ve been thinking it’s more than luck. I like to think now that the reason I’ve connected with so many incredible people is because I was open to them.

My favorite example of this is of a local restaurant here in Boston called Café 472. It opened up my sophomore year at BU, and from the moment I tried their frozen yogurt, I was hooked. It’s a small place comprised of a very small and international staff. The employees are mostly Middle Eastern and even though they’re all from different countries, they somehow communicate in one language that’s not English. My friends and I went literally once a week for their froyo. I refused to go to any other froyo place in Boston after I discovered Café 472. It got to the point where after establishing ourselves as dedicated customers, my friends and I convinced the owner to buy a jar of Nutella just for us, to create a Nutella froyo flavor.

My relationship with Café 472 changed the summer after my junior year of college. A Starbucks opened up on the same block, and I got transferred to work at that new location. One morning, I saw the owner of Café 472 come into Starbucks, and I got so excited to see him just because he’s always been so kind to my friends and I when we go to his restaurant. If I like you, then you get free Starbucks from me. So I gave him a free coffee with a big smile, because I was genuinely happy to see him. He initially looked really taken aback and confused, but appreciatively accepted the small gift.

I went to Café 472 that weekend like I normally do, and he gave me my frozen yogurt for free. I would’ve jumped up and down with excitement, but I didn’t want to scare the poor guy. Since then, the owner and every other employee has never let me pay for any froyo or food. But, it’s become so much more than the exchange of free food. When I go now, I greet and talk to everyone. When I left to study abroad at the end of the summer, I went to say goodbye. Everyone hugged me, and one of the girls even started getting teary-eyed, which caused me to get teary-eyed. They’re my friends now. When I told them I’d be moving to San Francisco after graduation, one of the women said that they were all going to miss me. Another girl said she’d love to come and visit me someday. They’ve told me they’re excited to meet my family when they come for my graduation in May.

This wonderful group of friends that I’ve made came from simply being open to connecting with them. For two years, they were just people I saw once a week who sold delicious froyo and food. Now, they’re all good friends who I’m going to miss when I leave.

I believe that people respond to kindness. I’m not saying I’m a saint, or that I haven’t had moments where I’ve acted like a bitch when provoked. Everyone has bad moments. But it’s something to strive for. I just think it’s important to live with the mindset that you should always treat people with compassion and love. It’s such a simple statement. One that everyone claims to already know, but I don’t think that everyone lives by it. If they did, we wouldn’t have half the problems in the world that we do today. I don’t know, people tell me I’m young, naïve, too optimistic like those are bad things to be. So I may be all of those things, but I wouldn’t want to be anything else. I’d rather focus on seeing the beauty in people than concentrating on the rougher edges. And I must say that people also tell me that I’ve had the “luck” of having great experiences and forming these random wonderful relationships with people. So I must be doing something right, no? Try it for yourself and let me know what happens.


“The More I Move, the Better I Feel”


As a graduating senior at Boston University, one of my major goals this year has been to get out of my comfort zone and see more of Boston before I move on to the next chapter of my life. One of my close friends at BU named “Tracy” is a very spiritual and open person; in short, she’s pretty much a hippie. I love her for it. She’s the friend I go to when I want a completely new experience that takes me out of my comfort zone in every way, and one Friday night she delivered. Tracy is a hardcore yogi, which is a term I learned from her meaning that she does an insane amount of yoga and is very involved in the yoga community. I was unaware a yoga community even existed before I met Tracy. She found out through her fellow yogi friends about a yogi dance night that featured a DJ and a space where people just danced barefoot any way they wanted to. She excitedly told me about the experience and invited me to go with her to another event that the same DJ would be hosting.

I’ve never done yoga in my life, nor have I danced barefoot anywhere else besides in my living room. The idea itself didn’t sound too fun, but Tracy insisted that she had such a great time and convinced me to give it a shot. So, on a Friday night Tracy and I made the “long trip” of crossing the Charles River into the Cambridge side, which during a Boston winter is a huge feat, I think. We found this small church that was the address. I didn’t know the event was being held at a church, and I’m far from religious so already I was uncomfortable. My discomfort intensified once I entered.

There were 20 people before me dancing barefoot who I swear must’ve been the original hippies from the ‘70s. They were older than my parents. Tracy and I were the youngest people there by like 30 years. I didn’t know what to say. Tracy and I had already made the effort to come all this way and we each paid $5 to get in so we’d already committed time and money. Although with one look Tracy knew I was extremely uncomfortable. She looked surprised as well, but was determined to make the best of the situation. Seeing my expression she immediately responded with, “C’mon we already paid and we’re here so let’s at least stay for an hour.” An hour never seemed so long to me.

Once we arrived, it seemed the rest of the group was ready to “get the party started” by sitting on the ground and forming a circle. The hostess started the night off by having each person introduce themselves with his or her name and hometown. Everyone else seemed to already know each other. Afterwards, she felt the need to include some rules. She warned, “If someone is dancing too closely to you and makes you feel uncomfortable, please just come and find me and I’ll handle it for you.” Tracy and I couldn’t hold in our laughter from that comment, which got us some dirty looks. Unfortunately, I laugh when I’m uncomfortable in order to try to make the situation less awkward, but it normally has the opposite effect.

With introductions and the rules of the dance church party out of the way, the first dance was done with the whole group staying in a circle formation and holding hands. It was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life; I had never been so out of my element. Luckily, the group dance only lasted for one song, and then everyone separated and started to boogey in his or her own way. The dance church party quickly went from being extremely uncomfortable to really fun! It was such a liberating experience to be able to dance in public the way I only let myself dance in my living room in private. No one cared what the person next to him or her was doing! The environment that they created was completely judgment-free. Tracy and I thought we were only going to stay for an hour and we ended up staying the full four hours just dancing the night away. There was one particular man who was a bit older than the average 50-year-old. He was also a bigger build and dressed a bit more old-fashioned wearing a white buttoned-down shirt, nice black trousers and suspenders. He sat on a small bench in the dancing area just watching as everyone moved, and he seemed to want to join in, but didn’t. When the DJ played a waltz, I walked over to the man and asked him if he would dance with me. He immediately got up, and I could just see the happiness in his eyes as we waltzed around the dance room. He was a natural. We chatted a bit about the event, and he revealed that it was his first time attending as well. Then he said the most adorable thing, “You know, the more I move, the better I feel.” It was true. After our waltz, he stayed dancing, and I realized the beauty of this event.

I entered full of judgments of the people there and the purpose of the event, but I was wrong to do so. These people created this space free of judgment where people could express themselves with their bodies and relax. It was so liberating! I left feeling happy, and I met so many genuinely kind people. A night that I thought was going to be terrible based on first impressions, ended up being one of the best nights I’d had in awhile. The dance party ended with one last dance that was again done in a circle with everyone holding hands, but this time it wasn’t uncomfortable. By the end I felt connected to everyone there, and the communal dance was full of love. Yea, I know I sound like a hippie, but that’s what dance church does to you I guess. It was a new and different experience that I’m glad I tried, because what’s life without some spontaneity?