"I was born in Algeria and came here twelve years ago when I was twelve. Life here was completely different than Algeria. I lived in Virginia at first. It was just like the movies! But, when I spent more time seeing the inside of life there, I didn't like it. My family moved to Columbia Heights a number of years ago. I like it better here and can do stuff like this - give out free hugs outside the Target. I decided on this location because it is near my house and there is a lot of foot traffic. The diversity here is great, so I can hug all kinds of people.
"I thought that giving out free hugs was a nice way to share the love and interact with strangers. A lot of people go through really hard days and, if I can make their day lighter, I know it will make both of our days brighter. Plus, everybody loves hugs! If you can't express something through words on the street, then expressing something physically is at a whole 'nother level. I have gotten a few negative response, but the positives definitely make up for them. I say one-out-of-ten people come and get a free hug from me. And once someone gets a hug, those watching want free hugs, too. I am pretty good at feeling the other person's energy and responding with the right kind of hug. I also do fist bumps for those that don't want hugs. It's just about the connection.
"From here, I am probably going to expand and give out more hugs around the city. I actually have a couple of friends who are going to get involved. Why wouldn't people want to give and get hugs? It makes you and other people feel good. I also have a sign in Spanish because you have to target the Latin community. You gotta give them the opportunity to get some love, too."