February was the month of hugs: 28 hugs, 28 different people, 28 days.

I was a little nervous about it. To get to 28, I was going to have to hug some strangers, and while I’m an enormous PDA proponent, asking strangers for hugs felt scary. I wasn’t sure I could actually do it.

Turns out, I can.

And people are awesome. Not one person I asked for a hug said no. Not one person hesitated. In fact, some people hugged me more than once because… well, because hugging feels really good. There’s this expression people get when you’re breaking through the veneer of their day, coming out of nowhere to ask them for something as ridiculous and wonderful and endorphin-inducing as a hug. They don’t just smile, they open up. They let you in. You can feel it, and in that instant when you’re standing quite literally heart-to-heart… it’s kind of amazing.

Here are the people who helped me spread love in February…

  1. Jill, my sister, with whom I share everything but DNA.
  2. Deanna, the waitress at a restaurant where Jill and I met for dinner. She hugged me twice. The second time, the restaurant was closing and she’d strapped on some running shoes for a late night jog through the streets of Santa Clara.
  3. Dillon, for whom hugging is a superpower.
  4. Charmaine, who hugged me after ringing up my groceries, and
  5. Brandon, the bagger, who felt left out.
  6. Benny (who plays sax) and
  7. Ben (who plays keyboards) and
  8. John (who plays bass) and
  9. Alan (who plays drums). I’d gone to their show determined to hug them – had even announced on Twitter that I would. By the time they’d finished playing, I’d chickened out, but as I was leaving, I remembered who I want to be. I ran back and told them my story and they hugged me cheerfully, and Ben said (with this priceless look of surprise), “Thanks, actually. That was great.” And he was right. It totally was.
  10. Jacquie, The Boy’s friend, who I give rides to because we’re so often going the same way.
  11. Morgan, Jacquie’s little sister who was turning ten on the day we hugged.
  12. Josh, Jacquie’s boyfriend, who hugged me a few days later because Jacquie said, “Oh! Here’s someone you haven’t hugged yet!”
  13. Joey, who is six years old and without a doubt the best villager ever to grace the Beauty and the Beast stage.
  14. Matt, Joey’s appropriately beaming father.
  15. Chad, who hugs me a lot but is particularly good at spotting when I really, really need one.
  16. Otus, who said I look like Dillon’s sister. (Yeah, I hug for corny-sweet compliments. Absolutely.)
  17. My mom, with whom I went on the best date ever in February, and…
  18. my dad, who wasn’t invited.
  19. Danny, who is sweet and smart and likes Michael Chabon almost as much as I do.
  20. Amanda, a barista at the indie coffee shop downtown, who stopped everything, opened the pass-through, and gave me a proper hug as soon as she heard about the project.
  21. Lindsay (who looks kind of like Barbie only prettier) and
  22. Ben (who is her Ken). They were at the coffee shop sitting in big, comfortable leather chairs, but they both stood up to give me a hug.
  23. Kelley, who was sitting at the next table over. He didn’t look like the hugging type, but he was. He didn’t even have to hear the story; he just stood up and opened his arms.
  24. Ray who was sitting at Kellie’s table, smaller and wiry and a little bit shy, but he stood up too. Everybody likes hugs.
  25. Laura who was waiting for her latte. She’s going to film school. She has long red hair and a sweet smile, and she gives great hugs.
  26. T.J. who was outside the coffee shop as I was leaving. I was on a hugging high. I asked if he wanted one and he said yes.
  27. Jay, my friend, who came bearing wine and brownies and the ingredients for dinner. All that, and a hug too. I’m keeping him.
  28. The Boy, who hugs me every day, but today it was when I said he could use the money he’s saving to buy a sword.

March is the month of giving what you need to get. I believe in karma. I believe that, more often than not, we get back what we put out into the world, so why not put out what you’re hoping to receive… Love. Permission. Attention. Forgiveness. Fun. Massages. Cheesecake… Even if you don’t get back exactly what you give, I bet you’ll get back what you need.

Love begets love. That’s my theory. Let’s find out.


  1. Tall Pajama Man on February 27, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    liking the challenge for March… Gonna have to figure out what I need, or maybe want, so I can start giving that. Thanks J

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 8:17 am

      I guess I was thinking of it more as a day-to-day assessment. For instance, I’ve had days that were just one defeat or rejection after another (or so it felt). And then I logged onto Twitter and suddenly people were making me laugh, telling me how happy they were to see me, making me feel anything but rejected. I think it’s about needing connection and so giving hugs, making a phone call, sending a note. Needing a shoulder rub, and so giving someone else one (that almost always works). Needing someone to listen and so asking someone else about their day, or their opinion, or their thoughts…

      I could think of examples all day. I guess maybe I’m needy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Tall Pajama Man on February 28, 2011 at 9:52 pm

      I like that too, cuz I can go for far too long not thinking of my needs, and then I go ballistic. I like the day to day look at giving to others what I think I need. So, here comes March, let’s see what I can give away tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. rita on February 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    I was just about to put my blackberry away and go to sleep when I thought I would check my Twitter feed one more time and I am so grateful that I did. Do you know that I actually smiled when I saw “new post” from you!!? Of course I did. One of my favorite things is reading a new post from you. And thank you for making a list of all the hugs you gave and got. I was thinking of you today when I showed up for day 3 of my 4.5 day course and asked someone for a hug because 12 hour days don’t stop me. And the person I asked actually cheered when I asked her. As you said, people love hugs. As you know, my month of hugs will stretch into a year with a video documentation to follow. And I have honestly, since I took on this project with you, received some of the most amazing hugs ever. I have people who will text me or call or email in advance and request a hug on a particular day. When I was home sick with the cold/flu business, I had people coming to my house to make sure I got at least one hug each day. You don’t even know what you have done for all those people you hugged and for me and all the people I have hugged and for all the other people who have hugged other people. Its f*cking awesome is what it is!! Xoxoxo

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 8:19 am

      Wow, I absolutely love that people came by to make sure you got your hugs. That is awesome. And I realized because of something you said earlier in the month, that no one I’ve hugged has been a neighbor. In fact, I’ve never hugged any of my current neighbors, though all but one have lived near me for years. Before the love project ends, I will rectify that.

      You’re fucking awesome. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Joanne Ludlow Firth on February 27, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Once again, your ideas about love come shining through to pierce my heart. Your list is beyond impressive and I’m wondering if your hugging and getting to know a bit about a complete stranger is going to continue. Seems to me like you made a lot of people’s days with your hugs.

    “Love begets love”, for March sounds wonderful. To be honest, I’ve been running low on the giving end and this is just the boost I need to step it up a notch or two. Your project means the world to me, which you know, if I occasionally fall short on the words to say it, know that I’m living it, every day with gratitude.

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

      I think it will continue, though maybe I’ll more take advantage of opportunities that arise rather than create them (no matter how awkward). I think my blood pressure went up a few notches every time I was working up the courage to say, “Hi, I’m j. I’m doing this love project…” ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Your living the love project means the world to me, Joanne. xo

  4. Ralph on February 27, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Don’t forget your twitter hugs.

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 8:25 am

      Aw, Ralph, I never do. (See my reply to Ken.) I can’t count how many times those Twitter hugs were what pulled me from a funk…. Twitter hugs and Zebra Sounds love. <3

  5. Melissa on February 28, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Going to do the March thing. Love this project.
    Issa xx

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 8:26 am

      I was talking to someone after I wrote the post last night, saying that I have plenty of examples where giving love (or understanding, or forgiveness) because it’s what I needed has worked. I actually think March is going to be profound for me. (And you.)

  6. Michael on February 28, 2011 at 1:32 am

    You awe me, you really do.

    I’ll have to think about the march challenge a bit too. I honestly can’t really think of much I need. Want maybe, but not need. Still, I’m sure I can find something to give away, even if I don’t need an ROI.

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 8:39 am

      You are a fortunate man. I was trying to think if I wished I were like you – complete in the way that it sounds like you are. I can’t decide. There’s a certain level of discontent or sadness that you must not feel, and I have to say I envy that. But my needs – for love, for understanding, for authenticity and forgiveness and adventure… drive me outside of myself and into the world all the time, and for me, that’s good. It may be essential.

      It’s not very Zen of me, I know, but I truly believe that grappling (however clumsily) with my own needs makes me, in the end, a more bravely empathetic person. (That totally makes sense in my head.)

    • Michael on February 28, 2011 at 10:16 am

      Actually, I like the definition you provided above better – just the stuff we need day to day. I was thinking more meta, and your perspective fits way better with real life. Taken on that level, I won’t be having a problem coming up with stuff to need or give away.

  7. Walker on February 28, 2011 at 3:35 am

    Cool list, read it as I was getting out of bed-yeah technology!

    I want to play along in March but have to think about what and how. There’s a part of me that wants to ask if there are rules and how I do this…silly little me.

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 8:57 am

      You’re cute. I do that too. I mean, even when I’m making deals with myself – which hugs count for instance. (Can’t count virtual hugs, can’t count the same person more than once. Rules.)

      For me, March will be a testing out of the something I truly believe – that in the act of giving what we need, we get it back, directly or indirectly. Last week, a misunderstanding with someone I love crushed me. And her. We were reeling and trying to explain ourselves and everything we said made the other feel worse. Then I realized that what I needed was for us to stop, get back to the place where are each others most fervent cheerleaders. So I did. I just stopped. I wrote a note about what she means to me and why, and she accepted my olive branch because, of course, getting back to good is what she wanted too.

  8. Estrella Azul on February 28, 2011 at 4:04 am

    Wow, this is impressive! Loved the individual stories you’ve mentioned before this post as well as the ones listed here ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’ve hugged many people this past month, and as I haven’t reached 28, I’ll just continue hugging people all year round.
    And there’s some hugging “scheduled” for this weekend, there’s nothing quite as wonderful and uplifting as hugging, especially people you haven’t seen in a few months!

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 9:01 am

      It’s hard to get to 28. I think maybe if you work in an office, it’s easier. I could have nailed this hug thing if I were still working at Intel. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or if I were more popular and so got invited to more shindigs. *makes not to work on popular social butterfly skills*

      Yes! Hugging old friends… nothing quite like that. <3

  9. Lance on February 28, 2011 at 5:03 am

    I’m impressed and envious you know someone named Otus.

    I remain in admiration of your work, J…Please continue.

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

      I guess, technically, I know him now, but I did not know him before I walked up to the table where he was sitting with Dillon (who insists Otus’s name is spelled with a “u” and not an “i”.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Jack on February 28, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Love this. I have consciously done this & the recipients were so surprised & appreciated the gesture. If you love that movie & buy it, buy another one for someone you know would love it. If you want to win something & someone else loves something, buy it for them & say congrats. If you want to buy take-out, buy it for someone else (make sure you know what they like). OK, these are all bought since these are easiest to explain here. I hope everyone shares their most creative ones at the end of March.

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 9:07 am

      Okay, a non-buying example… Once, several months ago, I was going through a Twitter-crisis. The kind where Twitter turns you into a 12-year-old and you feel ignored by someone you wish would pay attention to you, and you think maybe you should just unfollow so you don’t have to deal with the sense of rejection anymore, but instead of unfollowing I sent the person in question some twitter love… And I got love back. And then I did it again with someone who I missed, initiating contact even though I felt kind of vulnerable, and the conversation that unfolded was one of the most precious I’ve ever had – all about love and distance and the ties that bind.

      I have a feeling that giving what you need (or want) may be just the way to get it. (I wish I could test the theory out with a million dollars but, sadly, I don’t have that.)

  11. lunaJune on February 28, 2011 at 7:20 am

    love begets all things…

    thank you for sharing with us all your hugs…
    one can only imagine truly how many more hugs you would have
    if we were all closer.

    you rock
    you shine
    and you inspire us always
    it has been a wonderful year so far
    bring on the rest of it
    fearlessly awaiting the wonders to come

    • j on February 28, 2011 at 9:12 am

      I have often thought how cool it would be to have a massive meet-up of all the people I know online. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a few and it’s always such a… I don’t know. A thrill I guess, to be face-t0-face with the 3D version of someone I’ve become fond of online. If you were all closer, my life would be amazingly bright and wonderfully wild, I think.

      A lovely thought.

  12. Jack on February 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

    How cool is your example of a non-bought give-what-you-want that you described. Acting like a donkey seems to work too. I was needing to talk to you all so I squeezed myself in there the funniest way I knew how. I know in our world there are no ‘A lists’ or we are all on it. Hope I didn’t scare you.

    • j on March 1, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Don’t be silly, Jack! I’m way harder to scare than that. I thought you were funny, and you are invited to squeeze into my conversations ANY time. xo

  13. Pam on February 28, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Lovely hug list. It put a little sunshine in my 8th flu day. (Yay!)

    Your March plan will give you many gold-star days, I predict. You are going to sparkle so brightly with gratified affection and thoughtfulness, people will start asking you–what is your skin-care secret?

    • j on March 1, 2011 at 10:59 am

      Eight days of flu! Hope you’re feeling better today.

      Yeah, I’m pretty excited for March. I have a feeling my theory is going prove itself out repeatedly. Not always, but mostly, you get what you give. (And if it also removes wrinkles… score!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Lucy Pollard-Gott on February 28, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Are you sure you weren’t born in the Sixties? Not Flower-Power, but Love-Power for you! ๐Ÿ™‚ I really enjoyed reading your list of huggees, the special thoughts you devoted to each person. I’m sure they felt appreciated as well as hugged.

    • j on March 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

      Actually, I was born in the 60’s. I wasn’t quite old enough to be a full-fledged hippie, sticking my flower in the barrels of guns, but I kind of feel like that all the time right now. Sometimes it feels silly and futile and sometimes it feels profound in that way that only acts of futile silliness can.

  15. terrepruitt on February 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Oh, J . . . this post was soooooo difficult to read . . . . . it kept getting blurry. Happy tears blur blogs!


    • j on March 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

      Thank you, Terre, I read your comment yesterday when I was frustrated and a little confused and it helped. The commenting version of a hug. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • terrepruitt on March 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      Yay! I’m glad I hugged ya.

      I think Meg’s comment is an awesome thought too! โ€œI feel like you have wrapped your arms around the whole world.โ€

  16. Meg Sweeney on February 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    What a wonderful wonderful list. I feel like you have wrapped your arms around the whole world. Looking forward to giving what I want to get…hmmm…what a great thing to focus on. Thanks again.

    • j on March 1, 2011 at 11:04 am

      “I feel like you have wrapped your arms around the whole world.” THAT is an awesome thought. <3

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