Election time can bring about a feeling of "us" and "them." I voted early and paid close attention to my inner-experience. How I felt inside when I read the names (noticing constriction). I filled in the circles with care and gratitude. I feel strongly about certain issues. I'm aware of my core values and these lead me to vote for certain candidates. Yet it's not helpful to get excited if my "team" wins. That's a separation. There really is no "us" and "them," there's just humanity. My action is to vote. It's an informed, important action. And then I must let go.
Rather than judgment, fear, or blame, I wanted to spread love and hugs on election day. I wanted to feel connection with people, even people with whom I disagree. Letting go of the armor around our hearts—dropping the anger, fear, and blame—is a path to freedom and healing. This doesn't mean we're doormats. We can still stand up for what we believe. Yet we do so from a place of strength, wisdom, and kindness.
So, today, I stood with my FREE HUGS sign outside the neighborhood polling place. I was there between 11:30 and 2 in the cold drizzle. Hands numb, heart warm. At first, I was nervous; at the end, I didn’t want to leave.
I gave and received 103 unique hugs (and many duplicate hugs from people going in and coming out). It was an interesting, vulnerable, and heart-filling experience. No one was rude. A few people averted their eyes. A few more scoffed (yet when I wished them a good day, they wished me one back). Most people met my eyes and smiled. Whether they hugged me or not, they said hello and thanked me.
A few people immediately opened their arms (“I never turn down a free hug”). Some people looked curious, and when I asked if they’d like a hug, they responded, “Well, yes, we could all use a hug!” One woman held me tight and said, “I get so few hugs anymore. This is nice.” Another man hugged me and shared, “You are brave. We all need this." And another expressed, "I'm a recovering alcoholic. Hugs are necessary. Bless you and your family." Some people gained courage: When they exited the building, they declared, “Okay, let’s do this.” We hugged, and they walked away smiling and giddy.
I received a side hug, a fist bump, kisses blown from afar, and a glorious group hug from 2 daughters and their mom. I received an unexpected hug from a big, tall, quiet guy when he left the polling place. He looked right at me, opened his arms, and embraced wholeheartedly, not saying a word. Just then, an election volunteer passed me and whispered, “You are making so many people happy.”
They made me happy, too. The hugs kept me warm (inside and out). The gratitude was widespread. The smiles abundant. The relief was palpable. Both the relief of “Phew, I thought your sign was going to be something negative,” and the relief of receiving a genuine hug; receiving kindness. My heart was open and their hearts were open. Perhaps for just a few minutes, but it changed the tone of the day.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and brave, tender and grounded, accepting and kind, we make room for love, compassion, possibility, and hope. This election day will stay with me, deep inside, not because of results but because of honest and heartfelt human connection.