It was just like any other day at the office – I had already gone through my scheduled tasks and was ready to start writing, and that’s when it happened.
It’s been years now since I started a “fan page” on Facebook, always with that weird feeling of using the word “fan” as if I could have any. It was certainly not my goal, but changing that word was not under my control. This is all Mr. Zuckerberg’s idea, isn’t it?
My goal, by then, was to gather 100 people who were willing to change something in their lives, people who wanted to share their thoughts about what is going on in this crazy world we live in.
At the beginning I was really shy about the idea; I shared a couple of quotes and explained what I thought of them. After a couple of days I decided to share some of the knowledge I acquired during the humanitarian relief missions I was involved in Mexico, Haiti and Guatemala, and to make a long story short, after a couple of years I ended up managing a community of almost 100k on FB, producing 10k daily visits to my blog and around 30k followers on Twitter, which was certainly much more than what I was looking for at the beginning.
Through the journey I have gone from receiving support messages to handling waves of hate mail, from meeting great people to the typical psycho-stalker that helps you take a different approach on the way you interact with the audience. There’s no doubt that finding the balance between being close and not showing too much of your personal life is a big challenge, or at least it is for me.
I have some really amazing memories of this journey, no question about that, but there’s one that absolutely stands out from the rest.
Used to publishing what I think, feel or learn from day to day, it was not unusual to share a simple question to start a conversation, and that’s what made me realize how important a hug is.
Being a newcomer in Canada, one of the things I missed from Mexico and the Hispanic community were hugs; yes, the simple yet powerful warm feeling of someone else letting you know you are there by wrapping arms around your back and giving you a big hug. Indeed, it’s common in Hispanic culture, and even though I am sure Canadian’s hug too, at the time I hadn’t yet developed the relationships to hug with, leaving me with a deficit in my hugging account. I am a big hugger and that was making me feel a little sad by then.
With that feeling in mind I wrote a small article about how important hugging is and I started a chain of hugs on my Facebook community. Soon we were all “hugging” each other through messages and even through pictures that everyone was sending in.
I ended up the article by sending a big, gentle, long lasting hug to whoever was resonating with the need of the support a hug provides. That was it – wherever you are, if you need a hug then I’ll I send you one, and since a hug is a very safe investment (you both give and receive at the same time) it was truly the best way to break even for the day.
This seemed to be just another virtual exercise, but what I didn’t know was that a few weeks later I was going to receive a private message from a member of the community asking me to visit a certain profile on Facebook, and nothing was going to prepare me for what I was going to read.
The user in this account had passed away, and lots of messages from relatives and friends were posted recognizing the courage and the good moments they shared with this person when they were alive. She had already passed away after a long fight with cancer.
Among them I easily recognized one of the images I use to publish my quotes; it was the picture I used when I shared my need for a big hug. It was also the last message she had shared with her contacts – what an honor I immediately thought, while I started reading what she had added to the image:
-Jaime, I really needed that hug, I am scared and even though I am surrounded by lots of people who love me, I still feel lonely. I hug you back because I understand how important hugs are, thank you for being with me right here, right now, I really needed that extra motivation to face whatever comes next-
After writing that, she left for the hospital and never made it back. I was totally shocked by the fact that I was the receiver of the last message she posted on her Facebook account. I felt the goose-bumps traveling from the mouse-pad to my arms and then the back of my neck, and it was the same feeling of connecting with my emotions that somehow made me feel hugged in the most amazingly incredible way.
We all agree that the Internet is the new way of connecting with people, but this was somehow way beyond my expectations in that matter. This experience pushed me to be even more responsible of what I write and share, and it has definitely raised the bar and pushes me forward to continue pursuing my goals.
I have understood that we are here to share and learn from each other; I have also learned that to communicate better we have to listen more and think before we speak, and of course I have understood the tremendous power that sharing what you think, need or feel has in the people around you.
My mission is quite simple – I help good change happen, and after an experience like this, I know I am on the right track to accomplishing that mission.
I still think that a hug is one of the safest investments, and I am sure wherever she was now, by reading what she wrote, she was hugging me back and I will always be thankful for that.