What I have noticed with my events with The Hugging Army, is that every new experience brings me a deeper feeling of connection, and an affirmation of what it is that I am doing in the world. Pittsburgh Fringe Festival absolutely no exception.
One of the biggest thrills for me was to have my son, Jace, assisting with the details of the event, and accompanying me there both days. He chronicled the experiences through beautiful photos, and got to share in the hugging along with me. It was a wondrous new level of connection for us.
I had decided when I was accepted into Pittsburgh Fringe, that I wanted to have a venue that was considered “raw”; a raw venue meant that it was low technical needs, and a less traditional venue than a theatre or conference room. I had no idea what type of venue that meant that I would be offered. But I liked the idea of something more organic, less organized and formal. What they offered me was a perfect setting: a sitting area in a bed and breakfast, in the heart of the Pittsburgh cultural district.
At first, when offered this venue, I wanted to still present my program on The Hugging Army as I had before: with a power point, full of information and pictures. It was clear that it would not work in this type of venue, nor could it be supported there. My wife suggested enlarged photos, posters of sorts, to share the story. I was terrified that I would not have slides to be my reminder of what to say. I was scared that the program would have to be altered by using something other than technology. I was so afraid of change of any kind! Expectations can be a real challenge when we aren’t willing to consider other options.
But gratefully, I listened to her wise advice. I ordered 21 poster boards, my photos of my experiences mounted on styrofoam board, to tell the stories I had to tell. They were so powerful and amazing……
After embracing the storyboards, it felt easier to let go of my expectations of how many people may have heard of and been interested in my show. I felt inspired and excited about whatever would happen. I felt like I was sitting in my living room at home, surrounded by photos, offering my guests a comfortable seat, some Hershey’s chocolate Hugs, and stories. What unfolded was simply amazing.
I shared story after story about my hugging experiences, and how they have impacted me. I felt vulnerable and open. Those that attended were right there with me, listening, sharing, understanding. It was such a beautiful experience.
Then, we hugged one another at the end of each day. Full, present, warm hugs, full of love and peace. Presence. Willingness. Healing and Openness. It was beyond any of my expectations that may have been lingering. It was pure human connection on the most simple level. And everyone wanted to bring it to themselves as well.
Giving hugs to others continues to be some of the most meaningful moments of my life. There is something that is leading me to doing this, and in June of this year, I will be departing to travel in the Hug Bug to give hugs to people, from Delaware to Alabama to Washington, DC. I have no idea what will happen. But what I do know is that the more that I trust this process, this pull toward connection, the more deeply that I will experience true Love and Presence.