Thursday, January 15, 2009

Juan Mann in a million

A young friend, Ben, and I were wandering through the Pitt Street Mall in the Sydney CBD today, pondering where to eat lunch - and there, like clockwork, was the Free Hugs Man, or indeed, Mann (as in his pseudonym, Juan Mann). Musta been Thursday because there he was, giving out his free hugs and being - as he says - "a friend to Sydney". A friend in a distinctive maroon(?)/puce(?)/scarlet(?) velvet jacket, and holding up a big sign with an obvious message.

Free Hugs

Meeting Juan six months ago, despite having noticed him on the Mall for the four years leading up to that meeting, was an amazing experience. I came home so enthused to research his now infamous endeavours, and immersed myself in his various TV interviews (by Oprah Winfrey and Andrew Denton), the highly popular Youtube video (rated #1 on Australian Youtube, I noticed recently), and the controversial Internet invitation for the world to visit him in his flat, at any time...

As I said to Juan and Ben today, I'm a firm believer in the concept that, in our lives, we can run many parallel levels at the same time, and sometimes the tiniest positive or negative experience can bump us up or down onto a different, but similar, track. My free hug with Juan last year put me on a very high plane for several weeks.

To think that - for four years - I'd just passed him by, bemusedly. Today I made sure to get (and give) my free hug and I made sure Ben took up the offer as well. (I have to discover if a free hug made a lasting impression on Ben, but for me it was a comforting reinforcement that the next time I'm feeling down, I can at least try to link back those thoughts to a time - like now - when I'm feeling confident, positive, and very pleased with the way my life is unfolding.

Thanks Juan and Ben for a great day of stimulating conversation (and window shopping), without the thought of those back-to-work responsibilities that will very soon click into place.

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