One afternoon in 2004, at the Pitt Street Mall in Sydney, Australia, a young man walks up and down holding up a sign saying simply FREE HUGS in big black letters. After prolonged initial scepticism he eventually persuades someone to give him a hug and than a chain reaction unfolds with dozens of complete strangers hugging him, and each other. The participants are eventually removed from the mall by security men but they fight back with a petition and end up with 10,000 signatures demanding the right to free hugs.
The whole sequence of events was filmed by a video camera and then set to music. The resulting clip was uploaded onto YouTube and within weeks had been downloaded over 10 million times. It became an internet phenomenon and inspired similar campaigns throughout the world.
The individual who started it all, he goes by the pseudonym Juan Mann, has since set up a charity called Free Help which tries to bring together people who need assistance for a variety of problems and those able to help for no charge.
The Free Hugs campaign shows how one man standing in the middle of a shopping mall with a piece of cardboard can spread his message around the world. To do my little bit, I will ask you to hug the next person you see. Go on.