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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Moving: All to come, All that is left behind

Moving is hard work.  Organizing your entire life into tiny boxes is not fun.  Hauling boxes to moving trucks, moving containers, or USPS is exhausting.  But honestly… the really hard work comes in the weeks preceding the move and I am not talking about boxes.

My last Memphis sunset as a resident
Many people tried to warn me of moving to Memphis last year.  “The crime is terrible, the racism is substantial, and the city is fragmented, poor, and unhealthy.”  Yep, after one year, I agree.  But guess what?  All of these undesirable characteristics exist in practically every city, just to a greater or lesser extent.  I have found happiness here, as well as equality and cultural richness.  Ultimately, however, I did not find my future employer and now must depart this Mississippi River city.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hugging Strangers

In 2006 Oprah conducted an interview with Juan Mann, the founder of the “Free Hugs Campaign.”  Free Hugs is a campaign that started when Juan Mann came back to his home country of Australia, walked through the Sydney airport unaccompanied with desires of embrace or friendly recognition; he felt alone and hopeless.  Instead of rolling in his own sadness, he acted (proactivity, one of my favorite characteristics) and did this:

“I'd been living in London when my world turned upside down and I'd had to come home. By the time my plane landed back in Sydney, all I had left was a carry on bag full of clothes and a world of troubles. No one to welcome me back, no place to call home. I was a tourist in my 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, I wanted someone out there to be waiting for me. To be happy to see me. To smile at me. To hug me.
So I got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. I 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 me. The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me 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. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.
Everyone has problems and for sure mine haven't compared. But to see someone who was once frowning, smile even for a moment, is worth it every time.”
I empathized with his feeling of loneliness and of reward.  The Oprah interview touched my heart in some confusing way that made me want to emulate his goodwill.  I was a (back-to-school) student at Georgia Institute of Technology at that time and with the recruitment of a friend, I embarked on my first Free Hugs afternoon.  Still don’t know what I’m talking about?  Here, watch this video: