This is a message about breaking down barriers between people, reducing fear and hostility, cracking open hearts, spreading love and encouraging a culture of kindness.
It is a message about healing ourselves, our country and ultimately our world, and a big part of that is accepting and embracing our differences.
Hugging someone different from you is the fastest way to begin this healing, and there are no words to describe how excited I am to share this gift with you. I want you to experience this… for yourself.
We will get to the hugs in a little bit, but speaking of differences, first things first:
I am a white guy (if that wasn’t already apparent), fourth generation American, with mostly Eastern European ancestry — Russian, Romanian and some other countries sprinkled in.
I am of Jewish descent (that may or may not be apparent).
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit Michigan, in a middle class family, to two beautiful parents. I have one awesome brother.
I just turned 42 years young (the sprouting grays are making my age more apparent).
Politically, I am independent. I don’t identify with a label, and I find political labels to be counterproductive and divisive. I was a Bernie supporter, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with every single position of his.
Currently, in the world of work, I’m an independent representative for some pretty amazing restaurant software. This is how I pay the bills.
Spread the Hug is a 100% non-profit mission–a labor of love.
I’m straight, meaning I find myself attracted to women (just in case you’d like to know).
I haven’t been married, and I don’t have children.
I like the Cleveland Cavs. Not that you care.
I am a gun(s) owner.
You and I may or may not be much different, but either way, my hope is that you will receive this message in the same way that I embrace you on the street; which is completely receptive and open, regardless of your race, ethnicity, religion, physical characteristics, sexual orientation, political/spiritual beliefs or any other labels with which you like to identify.
Our differences are important, but we most likely have much more in common with one another than we realize. We’d find that out very quickly if you and I actually sat down for a chat. (This applies just as well to any other two human beings.)
We’d realize that we both want the same basic things out of life — freedom, happiness, security, peace and comfort.
We both have a story to tell.
We both have hopes.
We both have dreams.
We both carry sorrows.
We both have struggled at times.
We both have fought a tough battle.
We both may cry for each other if we only knew.
And when we are done crying, we’d probably laugh at a lot of the same jokes.
So we can focus on the things that divide us, or we can focus on the things that unite us. It is only a matter of where we choose to focus.
One thing that we have in common is that we are both at least a little angry and afraid right now. This is probably the first thing we’d talk about, and I’ll bet you we’d agree on much more than we disagree. This assumes that we actually listen to each other, rather than shout and trade insults. And it assumes that we would both respect each other and treat each other the way we would like to be treated.
Actually, that last bit is the whole key right there. We could pretty much do away with everything else if we just remembered that last part. That wisdom has come from many different sources, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to stick well.
Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets.”
Muhammad said to his followers, “None of you believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
The Jewish Rabbi, Hillel the Elder said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”
In Hindu scripture, it is stated, “The entire Dharma can be said in a few words…that which is unfavorable to us, do not do that to others.”
And I say, what we believe is not as important as how we treat each other.
Regardless of belief, we all originated from a single source.
You and I are distant cousins.
We are brothers and sisters.
We are the sons and daughters of our common ancestor.
This is true for both believers and non-believers.
Regardless of our beliefs and other differences, and there may be many, we can still respect each other.
We can still accept each other.
We can still listen to each other.
We can still be kind to each other.
We can still treat each other the way we would like to be treated.
And you and I can still hug each other. Maybe we already have.
The sky will begin to fall.
Right now, there exists a keyhole to transforming the world and it’s right in front of you.
It may not be obvious, but the key is hidden in plain sight.
You are the key.
I have found a glitch in the system — a crack in the matrix, so to speak.
Based on everything that I thought I knew about the world, I did not expect hugging strangers in public to be so well received. It really shouldn’t be this easy…but it is.
On Election Day, I spent seven hours hugging at two different polling centers in Atlanta. Based on the political divide and high tensions of the day, I wasn’t expecting an overwhelmingly positive response, but that is what I got.
I have hugged at many festivals, on street corners, sports stadiums, at a political rally, and walking around downtown Detroit.
In the short time I have been at this, I have hugged thousands of people and tens of thousands have walked past. Regardless of the setting, the reception has been very enthusiastic. Others that have been with me, either taking photos or hugging, have also been very surprised at how well it is received.
I can share from my own experience that the only thing that stands between us is fear. We can begin to close the space.
Each time we hug a stranger that is different from ourselves, we let go of fear and move closer to love. It is instantly rewarding and it’s both simple and easy. I have personally been transformed and my wish is for you to experience the same.
The sky will begin to fall.
Regardless of whom you voted for on Election Day, let’s all vote to get along with each other.
Let’s vote to be kind to one another.
Let’s vote to treat each other the way we would like to be treated.
Let’s vote for blacks to hug whites, for liberals to hug conservatives, for Christians to hug non-Christians, for non-Muslims to hug Muslims, and for Jews to hug gentiles.
Let’s vote for all believers and non-believers to hug each other.
Let’s vote for the United States of America to lead the world in tolerance, kindness and compassion — to become the united people of America — to be proud to be on team USA.
At this punctuated time in US history, let’s show the rest of the world who Americans really are, and not what the media portrays us to be. Let’s set an example for the rest of the world to follow.
The sky will begin to fall.
This doesn’t mean that we should become soft. On the contrary, we will be stronger than we’ve ever been before.
We protect our free speech, we let our voices be heard and we continue to speak our truth. We stand up and fight for what we believe!
We stand up to protect our water, our air, our food and our planet.
We stand up to get the money out of politics.
We stand up to end our dependency on unsustainable, polluting fossil fuels, and we embrace clean renewable energy. The technology is here.
We stand up to protect our jobs.
We stand up to end the disgust that is privately run for-profit prisons.
We stand up to locking people in cages for possessing a plant.
We stand up to the abuses of animals.
We stand up to abuses from the casinos of finance.
We stand up to suffocating student debt.
We stand up to extreme wealth inequality.
We stand up to keep the internet free and open.
We stand up to protect our borders from illegal immigration.
We stand up to protect each other’s human rights.
We stand up to protect those who have served us.
We stand up for those groups that are being unfairly persecuted.
We reach over to help those who can’t help themselves.
We fight to protect our 2nd amendment rights, and we put better controls in place because we care about protecting each other.
We keep our arms safely concealed out of site (preferably) while we open-carry our hearts, and work together to create a country in which we don’t feel the need to cling so tightly to our guns.
Real change doesn’t come from above, it never has — whether that be the highest office in the land, or way up in the sky.
Real change starts from within.
While we are standing up for what we believe in, let’s turn to face each other.
Find someone different from yourself, someone whom you may be likely to avoid in public, and give them one big hug. Just about everybody could use one right now.
The sky will begin to fall.
We are at a critical point in our collective evolution here on Earth. We have so much promise, but we are like the caterpillar at the end of its life-cycle that will either perish or transform into a beautiful butterfly.
Like the caterpillar, we will fulfill our promise or we will soon be gone.
We humans are at the very edge of the cliff looking down, with no way back.
We will learn to fly, or we will fall and die.
The ONLY way up is through the heart.
There is no other way.
Just when the caterpillar thought that the world was over, it took flight.
It is only through each of our human hearts that we will heal each other, our country, and this world — together.
Come fly with me.
There may be many different rules to enter the Heaven or Paradise that exists up there, but if we wish to bring it here, to Earth, it will only come after treating others the way we would like to be treated; after developing compassion for each other; and ultimately, once we begin to love our brothers and our sisters as ourselves. It can be no other way.
Let’s collectively be the change that we wish to see in the world. It starts with how we relate with our families, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers and the other people that we come in contact with each and every day.
There is no political leader that is going to save us.
There is no business leader that will save us.
There is no technology that will save us.
Only we will save us.
You will save us.
You will save you.
YOU are the one that you’ve been waiting for.
Yesterday the sun rose.
Today the sun also rose.
Tomorrow morning, the sun will again rise up in the East.
But it is up to you whether the sky will begin to fall. And that is very good news.
It is my hope, it is my wish, it is my prayer and it is my dream for you to embrace a stranger that is different from you, breaking down barriers, reducing fear, cracking open hearts, and spreading love — one big hug and one act of kindness at a time.
It is my promise that if you hug a stranger that is different from you — just one — we will live in a better world tomorrow.
And if you can continue to do this over and over and over,
the sky WILL begin to fall,
and when it does,
we will begin to bring “heaven” and “paradise” to Earth.