Free Hugs @ 12,000 Feet, so what happened at the National Storytelling Network Conference, Wow!

Free Hugs at 12,000 Feet at National Storytelling Network Conference, WOW! First, I am so grateful my workshop was chosen to be shared. Second, I thank all whom attended. What an incredible workshop it turned out to be. And not because of me, but because of the Participants. Thank you to all who attended and shared your hearts, memories, stories, songs, and most of all your Free Hugs with me on Saturday June 30th in Cincinnati.

We all arrived in different ways; some on a crowded bus, a car, an airplane. Me, I arrived on a Big Wheel. For those of you unfamiliar with a Big Wheel; it looks like this:

No matter How we arrive, we are all on a journey both literally and figuratively. And we All meet Challenges along the way. Some view these as obstacles others as opportunities; some become blocked others find alternative routes. My journey began with the Priest being called in to give last rites because they did not think I’d survive my first night. That’s a whole ‘nother story. I did survive. And I am grateful Every Day.

Flash forward to today.

I strive to live and share a life of JOY. Joy is contagious. One small action creates a ripple effect far greater than we may realize. So I do Small things like sharing bottles of bubbles on subways and offering and organizing Free Hugs for total strangers. And some bigger things; like selling my house & stuff to start Literacy Outreach Belize, my volunteer project.

Free Hugs at 12,000 Feet was my small share of JOY at the NSN Conference. We gathered to share Joyful moments and discover the potential seeds of Joyful stories. I shared my Journey toward joy after a difficult childhood and teen years; living with a suicidal father, anxiety ridden mother and alcoholic (by the time he was 13) brother gave me some perspective. At age 18, I decided to Choose living and sharing a JOYful life because I wanted to break the cycle of despair I witnessed in my home.

We listened, and belted out the lyrics to Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World We swayed and sang Barry Manilow’s Copacabana (you know the words, admit it!) And then participants shared songs that gave them joy and could be potential seeds for story. We heard Jane sing: “I wish I were a little bar of soap…” (a camp song), and Libby shared that even though her parents were both deaf, they encouraged her to sing at her church, her father standing nearby beaming ear to ear even though he could not hear a single note.

We also blew bubbles! Bubbles make nearly everyone smile! I shared true tales of Free Hugs around the world including the most powerful hug I ever received from a severely autistic boy in Paris. We all shared Free Hugs in the lobby of the hotel (we wanted to share them Outside in Cincinnati, but it was 102 degrees that afternoon!

I encourage all of You to share some JOY, no matter how small you think it may be, you might be surprised at how deep and far the impact goes. Please share one of your joyful moments with us by making a comment about something JOYFUL you shared or received. And I give you a HUG! A Free one, of course!

2 Responses to “Free Hugs @ 12,000 Feet, so what happened at the National Storytelling Network Conference, Wow!”

  1. David H. Claunch 03/07/2012 at 16:22 #

    It was pure joy to be present for your Free Hugs at 12,000 Feet workshop and see you come alive as you opened your heart and poured your joy into ours! At times I was moved to tears and then found myself shaking with laughter. You took us with you as you raced your Big Wheel with WonderWoman superpowers in New York City, offered Free Hugs at 12,000 feet in the mountains of South America, and nurtured a young child’s spirit in Paris. Then you invited us to explore our own joyful journeys with song, bubbles and Free Hugs in the hotel lobby. I can speak for myself and from the comments I heard from other participants I am speaking for at least most of them as well; your workshop, enthusiasm and stories have changed my life forever. Keep up the great work it is very important and extremely valuable! The world needs more Free Hugs, bubbles and joy!

  2. Paul Smith 06/07/2012 at 15:17 #

    My 7-year-old, Benjamin, was so enthralled with the story I came home with from the NSN conference about this lady giving free hugs, that he wanted to do it himself. So yesterday, on vacation in Breckenridge, Colorado, at a 4th of July parade, he set up his own free hug station!

    In less than an hour, he gave away over 20 hugs to boys and girls, men and women, grandparents and teenagers. Anyone who needed a hug got one.

    The 7-year-old girl vacationing with us at first just stood beside him and watched. Pretty soon, she started receiving “collateral hugs”. Not long after that, she was all in!

    Watching my son having so much fun giving out hugs was a one-of-a-kind moment for me as a parent. He brought joy to so many strangers yesterday! Even the people that didn’t stop and get a hug were impacted. They would immediately get a smile on their face and in their heart and say something like, “Oh, how sweet!” Some would stop to watch for a while to see other people get hugs, surely marveling at his love and generosity.

    Happy Independence Day, Kristin !!! And thank you so much for bringing this joy to my family.


    Paul Smith
    author, Lead with a Story

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