It started as a late lunch conversation on Feb 13th, 2011 about the idea of spending time with friends from TEDxJakarta on Valentine’s Day. Lalitia (tw: @lalitia), our co-curator, twitted that friends should come and we would hug one another.The twit was retwitted, and someone put a hashtag #hugcampaign. Hundreds of twits and retwits later, in the span of four hours, it was officially a trending topic. One major radio channel (Cosmopolitan 90.4 FM) suddenly called in asking for a 7:45am interview the following day on this hug campaign. The law of unintended consequences and the power of twitter in Indonesia had spoken: we were going to give hugs to ALOT of people and it psyched the living day out of us.
In the span of less than twenty-four hours, we managed to get the top management of Pacific Place Mall (the mall caught in action) to agree (into taking risk) with our rather non-conventional activity. In a relatively conservative and religious country like Indonesia, any form of public display of affection is a sensitive issue. We engaged @America (venue at the mall) to allow us use their space for pre-gathering and our “Board of Compassion”. We brought in the videographers and the volunteers.So on Valentine’s day - we held a FREE HUG campaign to share warmth and compassion with others , especially strangers.
TEDxJakarta believes compassion, toward loved ones, friends, acquaintances and strangers, is an idea worth spreading. Recently, we’ve been bombarded with domestic news of violence related to religion. This has left the country as a whole feeling unsettled and tired. This year, TEDxJakarta plans to incorporate the Charter of Compassion in our agenda and promote the charter’s initiatives proactively. The viral video from this #hugcampaign will kickstart our initiative.
In the few hours we were there putting our arms out, we were surprised by the response. A girl came and hugged saying “I am alone on Valentine’s day”. An elderly gentleman walked up with teary eyes, hugged, said “Thank you”, and walked away quietly. A little boy ran up to us happy and of course we had plenty of group hugs.We did it to share compassion, warmth and presence with others. However, we also did it for ourselves. We were reminded of what’s possible and the humanism that still exists strong if we bothered to look. At the end of the night, we were literally High on Hugs. It was the most amazing experience. Thank you @pacificplace @atamerica and @TEDxJKT team for making it possible. Happy Valentine’s Day TEDx Community.
Written by Benson Engelbert