When I was around fifteen, four or five years ago, me, my dad, and my sister went on a trip to America. It was the first time I had left the United Kingdom, the first time I had been on a plane, really the first time I’d ever done anything significant. It is one of those experiences that will stick with me forever, with one part of it making a huge impact on me.
We were at a theme part called Cedar Point in Ohio. You see, back then we had a thing for rollercoasters, a big thing. Though the thing is, at that time I wasn’t exactly doing great. Not the worst things have been, but not the best either. I had also hurt my knee a week previously after falling from my bike in a futile teen-hormone fuelled attempt to become a better mountain biker. I hurt my knee and had a visit to the hospital. It wasn’t broken, only swollen, meaning I couldn’t easily bend it. So, although a week later it was better, the ten-hour cramped flight was still hell.
Anyway, back to Cedar Point – the knee also made it hard to go on some of the rides, especially the more violent ones. I still did, but not as much as my sister and dad, I had to take breaks in the fear of it worsening. Also, frankly, I was in a shitty mood. Both because of my mental state at the time, and what the knee was forcing me to miss.
I sat on a circular seat that surrounded a tree in a wide courtyard, a little way away from where my sister and dad queued for a ride. I watched the people, I liked to do that, I still do. There’s something soothing about watching the little, hardly noticable things a person does when they don’t realise they’re being watched (In a non creepy way!) Maybe sat there like that, I didn’t look so cheery, because, I suppose I wasn’t. So, these two girls came up to me. They were maybe two years older than myself at the time. They wore green t-shirts, that on them said, ‘Free Hugs!’ in big, black, bold letters. Although I don’t remember exactly, one said something along the lines of ‘you look sad, do you need a hug?” Now, because of my ravaging social anxiety, I didn’t quickly respond, but eventually, of course, I couldn’t turn them away. I thought that would be rude. And so, I stood, and one after the other I hugged them. Then they smiled, and walked away. It felt good. Some of the darkness receded. To this day, it is something I cannot forget, something I will not. Something I take great comfort in.
I don’t know why it made such an impact on me. At the time, I didn’t hug many people but family, I guess I still don’t. But it wasn’t that, it wasn’t the physical sensation. Since then, it has come to remind me of the good in people, the kindheartedness that resides within them. I still can’t figure out why they would do that, the intentions behind it. Maybe there wasn’t any, maybe they were simply good people. I like to think that. That people in general are good. That they do their best to be.
I remind myself it is the little things in life, the things like this that matter, that can make a differnce to a persons’ life. However small, however tiny the action might seem at the time. I really did need those two hugs. It made all the difference. And I will remember what those two girls did for the remainder of my life.