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Free hugs on Fountain Square

Students from Xavier were at Fountain Square Friday to give something away: hugs.

The event was part of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement's Golden Rule Week, which was designed to teach that the idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is found in many different faiths and traditions.

Program Assistant Stephanie Renny says the free hugs are an effort to encourage compassion. 

She says some people declined the free hugs, but many were receptive. 

“If they don’t want to be hugged, we’ll give them an air hug. We wave. We say 'hi, have a great day,'" Renny says. "Whatever they want.  Just so that they feel the love of the other.”

“It’s not about our differences," Renny says. "And at the Center for Interfaith, that’s a big part of who we are, is going from tolerance to celebration.”

Renny says hugs have lots of benefits. 

“On a biological level, they help release endorphins," she says. "I think they say you need eight hugs a day.”

She says hugging a stranger works for both the hugger and the hug-ee.

“I think you absolutely come away feeling a little different,” she says.  “This is going to sound a little cheesy, but I think I come away feeling more human. Because I’m not perfect so there are some times it pushes me outside of my comfort zone and I appreciate that challenge.  I’m very humbled by the love that people share with me because I’m not just hugging a pole, people are hugging me back.”

Renny says this is the fourth year Xavier students hugged strangers on Fountain Square.