They say the best things in life are FREE.. well near enough according to Alex Yechun Zhong, a current student at the University of Liverpool.
Alex’s heart-warming concept of “Nearly Free Hugs” offers a free hug in exchange for 1 smile in return, with the idea coming from her friend Miya. The idea is to sprinkle that little bit of happiness around the streets that is sometimes filled with despair and seriousness, adding that feel good factor to people’s day.
Alex says: “I think it is wonderful, sometimes when I walk in the street, I can see people walking by in a hurry with serious faces”.
They all seem to be so busy with their life and look a bit anxious. Then I thought we need to smile more and laugh more and be happier. Happiness is contagious. If my hug could make more people smile, it would be a blessing. Also, I think hugs could give people more strength and make them feel warm. As my friend put it, global warming warms the weather, but our smile and hug warm the heart”.
So, I got a paper board and a mark pen and drew the slogan. To be frank, I was feeling a bit uneasy when I picked up the board and set off. I was worried that nobody would like this idea and I wouldn’t get any smile at all. Luckily, I met my first “respondent”. He hugged me, and I took a photo of his smile. As I carried on, I met some people waving to me from across the street and they wanted a hug too.
I passed a school and a lot of students came out after school. Some were really interested in the “hug”. Though they were shy at first, they ran to me and told me they would like a free hug. I could see them laugh happily with excitement. I even met an old man who said it was his birthday and he thanked me for such a nice birthday gift. Some people told me it was a brilliant idea and they thought people need this. Later, I realised that not only my “free hugs” made them smile, but their smile also gave me encouragement and warmth”.
Alex’s goal is to spread love and happiness around the city and aims to continue adding that bit of sunshine to people’s busy lifestyles. Here at EXPLORE we would like to thank Alex for brightening up our day with not only a fantastic refreshing idea but for an invigorating hug that brought a genuine smile to our faces.
To view images of peoples smiles posted visit Yechun Zhong Facebook page.