After a touching moment with a bereaved teen at church, a mom from North Carolina was struck by divine inspiration. She made signs that read “Free Mom Hugs” and “Free Dad Hugs” and went to a local university campus with her husband to offer hugs to anyone who needed one.
On Nov. 16, 2021, Jordan and Matt Roten visited Appalachian State University and hugged more than 600 people.
At the end of the day, with sore feet and full hearts, Jordan took to Facebook to share her and her husband’s experiences.
“We held up signs and asked every student, professor, or staff member that passed us if they wanted a hug, and let me just tell you, we hugged until our arms fell off,” she wrote. “We smiled until our cheeks were sore. We gave hundreds of hugs. Happy hugs. Sad hugs. Bear hugs. Rib-cracking, back-breaking hugs.”
Some saw the signs and sprinted toward them, while some passed with nothing more than a nod, but doubled back when they realized a hug was needed. Others returned between classes for one extra hug.
For Jordan, the idea of giving out free hugs came when she visited a church around two weeks prior to her visit to the university.
“There’s this beautiful girl who’s 16, and she recently lost her mom,” she said in an interview with K-Love Christian radio station. “The sermon that Sunday was on grief, and how hope is our anchor in times of grief, and I could just see that that message was really impacting her. … I just felt a nudge in my spirit to go give her a hug.”
When Jordan approached the young woman to offer her a hug, the teen didn’t hesitate for a second. Holding on tight, Jordan assured her of how loved she was.
That’s when an idea ignited in Jordan’s mind—that she was going to give free mom-and-dad hugs on a college campus. As she shared the idea with Matt, he was willing and onboard. The couple even decided that they would hug for as long as the receiver decided.
Most of the people they shared an embrace with didn’t want to let go, she said.
For Jordan, a hug is special because she believes that physical touch can impart value, dignity, and comfort to the receiver.
“Sometimes you just need to be wrapped up by someone,” she said.
Surpassing 600 hugs on the campus, the couple knew how right their instincts had been. Jordan shared some of their most touching interactions on Facebook.
“We had a few precious hearts melt in our arms because they were overwhelmed with school and exams, and we had a few who told us through tears they weren’t able to go home for the holidays,” she wrote.
Another experience she shared was of a “beautiful girl” who had lost her mother in early 2021. The girl hugged Jordan for 10 minutes while they both cried. Meanwhile, a man who was losing his father to cancer hugged Matt “extra tightly.”
What touched Jordan most of all was how many people admitted they needed a hug more than they knew.
“I’m so overwhelmed by the goodness of God and the way he loves us,” she wrote. “Our feet are sore. Our arms are sore. Our ribs are sore. But our hearts are so, so full.”