Not because of Free Hugs thing or National Hugging Day or anything, but yeah, I have. It was actually a huge deal in my life, something I still think about all the time.
When I was young, I went to youth retreats every summer for a weekend. By the last one, I was starting to wane in my religion, leading down to the slope to where I am now, which is completely agnostic and confused at all.
But anyway, this one summer, I was probably twelve. Maybe thirteen.
Anyway, there were a lot of kids there, and I didn't know anyone. However, the kids who all came together from big churches all knew each other and had like a billion friends there. There was one kid who was older, sixteen at the youngest, possibly eighteen, who was from one of these big churches.
On talent show night, someone sang one of those country songs about soldier that came out after 9/11. And this kid was really upset and his friends took him away. Later I went to the bathroom, and I heard him talking to them and he was saying, "I just never know when it's going to hit." They were positively fawning over him, and he was pretty well taken care of.
I still, to this day, don't know if he has a family member in the service, or if he was eighteen and was going to join. But on the last day, he came in wearing a green uniform. I don't know what it was (as far as Army, Navy, whatever), at that point in my life I couldn't tell them all apart, and I don't remember now.
Anyway, I was seated near the back. We were all singing the same verse of a song over and over again, "Open the floodgates of Heaven, let it rain... let it rain" again and again, and the mood was very somber, and I glanced back, and he was kneeled on the floor, completely alone, sobbing.
I wondered where his group of fawning fangirls had gone. They were nowhere. Not there for him, like they should have been. I didn't know his name, where he was from, where he was going, or why he was sad. I had never spoken a word to him, but I got up from my chair, knelt next to him and put my arm around his shoulders.
"You look like you need a hug," I said, and in my memory he smiled a very small smile, but my brain might have added that later.
I don't know where he is now, or who he is. But I hope he remembers. I hope I made a difference to him. More than anything, I hope I did.