Last week I did our Dance Floor Theory training for an Army BOSS conference because, just like schools, the Army has an extremely hard time engaging their single Soldiers. According to a 2005 Leisure Needs Survey, 80-95% of single Soldiers never participate in BOSS sponsored activities.
As usual, I set up the idea of building relationship with apathetic Soldiers through Blender events such The Free Hugs Campaign. Then I handed out Free Hug signs and encouraged the group to take the idea outside the session to the rest of the conference. And they continued the campaign all the way to lunch.
As we stood in line to get our food, an older lunch lady with an Eastern European accent pointed at one of the Free Hugs signs from behind the counter. “In my 25 years working here, I’ve never seen anything like this.” She smiled.
I responded, “Well, we’d love to give you a Free Hug, but you’re behind the counter.” She smiled again and spoke softly, “Oh no, I’m too busy to give hugs.” Then she shuffled off to the back room.
I turned to the Soldiers next to me and we all knew, without words, that she not only wanted the Free Hug, but needed it. So we waited by the back room door for our lunch lady to emerge. Two minutes later she opened the door to me and 3 Soldiers with our arms wide open and Free Hug signs. Her face expanded into a smile much larger than it was used to and she embraced us all.
As we let go, her eyes filled with tears and without words she smiled and shuffled back to work.
Sometimes they don’t want it.
Sometimes they want it.
And sometimes they need it.