Should social change founders be perfect?

So people have been telling me that my Facebook presence is out of Iine with HugTrain and that HugTrain seems to be a vanity project. Those people misunderstand me and HugTrain. First and foremost HugTrain is not about being perfect — it’s about doing something small, whatever it is, to change the world. I’m far from perfect and I don’t pretend to be. And I want people to be ok with saying that about themselves. I make mistakes. I make mistakes even when I think I’m making the right choice. We all do! Right? When it comes to HugTrain, I hope people will not expect me to be perfect. Or infallible. Or project any of their other expectations onto me.

I chose hugs specifically because they’re outside my comfort zone. They actually stress me out. But I know how much they can do for others. The science is undeniable and we are becoming more and more socially isolated , ironically, thanks (in part) to social media and it’s more important to me that I take action in fixing that in the ways that are immediately available to me because it’s an epidemic within massive health and social implications.

That being said, let me be clear, I do not believe that people are responsible for your reactions to them or that you can blame them for how they ‘make you feel” — only you are responsible for your reactions and your perspective, which you can consciously choose to shift, and your expectations (see my cover photo) will usually be the basis for how you “reflexively” react.

And I wish people would realise that and not take everything everyone does so personally, as a slight to their value or worth. I’m not perfect at that either but I’m getting better at it. The truth is that no one knows who you really are except you and no one can judge you accurately except you.

What I’m trying to bring about with HugTrain is an understanding that we are all imperfect and that we all need each other, regardless of the groups we belong to. And that asking for help is not only OK but essential because we are imperfect. I know that asking people to get up in the middle of a long distance train and hug a bearded guy with a pink neon Free Hugs sign in front of strangers they have to sit next to for the rest of their trip which can last hours if not days is A LOT of vulnerability at once but people surprise me and hopefully get the benefits of a hug from it. A reward, essentially, for their courage. Which is not to say that those who don’t get up should be judged negatively. Like I said, it’s a lot to ask and I know it still has an impact on those who don’t get up for a hug and I will not make negative assumptions about them or about the people who crack jokes or even yell at me. I approach them with unconditional compassion, forgiveness and benefit of the doubt not only because it helps them but because it helps me. Additionally, I want to be an example of the importance and value of not fitting in and the power of small actions.

As for it being a vanity project, I admit that it’s helped me grow a lot as a person but it is not without its challenges. First of all, I am not the best fundraiser or communicator when it comes to explaining the benefits of HugTrain to others and I find fundraising difficult. Also for the last 4 years I’ve had to deal with a brain injury which makes doing the bulk of the work alone (I am super grateful to my volunteers and donors, thank you for sticking with me!) that much more difficult. Especially when people assume that all I want is a free vacation when in reality the trip is a lot of hard work and has made a difference in many people’s lives. People who would not be reached otherwise or for whom I show up at the exact moment they need it. Some of whom I will never know about and some of whom I have been lucky to find out about even if it was years later. I cannot stress enough how this is not a trip in a first class cabin with catered meals where I’m flitting across the continent on someone else’s dime having the time if my life though I have to wonder why people would make that assumption at all and if they are even my target audience. If I take money, like I started doing after my brain injury made it impossible to pay for the trips myself anymore, and none is left over for charity even after I’ve done everything to reduce the costs that doesn’t mean I’m wasteful or selfish or am conning anyone out of their money for my own benefit. It means that I’m a bad fundraiser. But rest assured, the impact of HugTrain is important and the money time and energy donated goes towards making an important impact on the world and I thank everyone who has been a part of the trip for trusting me to be their conduit to paying it forward. It is truly an honour and a privilege.

I hope this clarifies things and makes sense (as I said I’m not always sure I’m providing enough information) and I hope you will join me in accepting people as they are with compassion, forgiveness and benefit of the doubt and believing in the power you have to make the world a place you want to live in and I hope you start with YOURSELF! You are important and you have something unique to share. I hope you will share it with me! *HUGS*

Whew that was a lot to write and my brain injury is telling me to stop so I’m going to gage a nap now but thank you for reading and please don’t hold back on the feedback.

Founder of HugTrain, a movement (literally!!) focused on empowerment through small actions

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