Can you remember a time you reached out for a hug?
Were you a child that fell off your bike and needed your mother’s healing arms? Was it a time you received tragic news, and the only comfort was in the arms of a loved one? Were you celebrating that long-awaited accomplishment and the hug released emotions that couldn’t be contained? Was it yesterday, when you returned home from a long workday and gently squeezed your spouse in a greeting of “I’m finally home?” Was your favorite hug holding your newborn child for the first time? Each hug is a gesture of love, friendship, comfort, healing, celebration, or greeting.
I was recently asked what my reason was for starting Free Lubbock Hugs. That is an easy answer: My daughter. She “came out” to me in the middle of her sophomore year of high school, on her 16th birthday to be exact. On some level, I always knew. I made sure that I let her not only know but truly feel that I was going to be there for her. It was beautiful to watch her adjust to the world with her newfound freedom to be her true self.
Fast forward: I took her to watch the movie “Love, Simon.” There is a scene where Simon’s mother explained what I had been telling my own daughter all along. (Mom consoles Simon “These last few years, it’s almost like I could feel you holding your breath,” she tells her son. “You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you’ve been in a very long time.”) With tears in my eyes, she and I shared a look that only a mother and her child could even begin to explain. It is a feeling of total acceptance.
Fast forward again: One Sunday morning in July 2018, I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across an article about Free Mom Hugs. A wonderful woman named Sara Cunningham had organized a group of moms who would be “official huggers” at different PRIDE events around America. I thought, “I wonder if Lubbock has a group like that?” A quick Google search revealed nothing. So, I started doing a little more research and found out that not only was this a growing event, but there wasn’t ANYTHING like it in TEXAS (at the time)! I am not one to sit back and wait. I knew that “Free Mom Hugs” was already established, and I knew more than just moms would want to give out hugs.
That same Sunday morning in July 2018, I created Free Lubbock Hugs.
Soon after that, I contacted Lubbock Pride and asked about providing a booth at their events to give “Free Lubbock Hugs.” They not only agreed, but they donated the booth! By that evening, I had people that wanted to JOIN in and START HUGGING!!! It was truly a blessing to see how FAST this happened! I do not think that I was prepared for the snowball effect of this small action.
Our first PRIDE event as FREE LUBBOCK HUGS was amazing! I had 27 people volunteer their time and to give hugs. We had shirts, smiles, and more hugs than I had ever imagined! After the event was over, I got in my car, sweaty, hot, and covered in glitter, my heart overflowing with love. There are no words to accurately describe the magnitude of my emotions. I knew as my mind replayed the day, I had been a part of something life-changing. I saw grown men come to our booth and then break down in tears because it had been years since they had a real hug. Teenagers with tears in their eyes saying that they wished their own moms would hug them. Those hugs were a simple embrace for me and a real connection for them.
Since PRIDE 2018, my home has been a safe space for many of my daughter’s friends to be themselves, identify as they feel, and be able to feel at HOME.
Getting ready for PRIDE 2019, our little group of 27 has blown up to well over 200 people. I invite anyone to join us at Lubbock PRIDE who would LOVE to be apart of something amazing.
I ask again, “When was the last time you reached out for a hug?” For me, this is wrapping my entire pride, joy, understanding, and support around my daughter, and the sons and daughters of others, with unconditional love in the form of a free hug.
Want to know more? Like FREE LUBBOCK HUGS on Facebook and JOIN US!
Lubbock Pride 2019 happens on Saturday, August 24th from 12pm – 9pm at Maxey Park. See more details on the website here: https://www.lubbockpride.org/pride-2019