Members of a Texas church showed their dedication to biblical teachings about love when they showed up at a pride parade in Austin to offer support to the LGBTQ community.
Writer and speaker Jen Hatmaker encouraged fellow members of the Austin New Church to spread some love at the August 2018 event by offering “Free Mom Hugs, Free Dad Hugs, Free Grana Hugs, and Free Pastor Hugs like it was our paying job.”
Hatmaker was inspired by a movement called Free Mom Hugs, “a group of affirming parents and allies who love their LGBTQ+ kids unconditionally and take hugs of love and acceptance to others.”
While the group is not tied to any religion, Executive Director Sara Cunningham identifies herself as “a Christian mom with a gay kid living in Oklahoma saying enough is enough.”
When Hatmaker decided to follow in the footsteps of this national movement, she found an enormous amount of support among her fellow church-goers and received a heartwarming response from those attending the Austin Pride Parade.
In an Instagram post, Hatmaker said the hugs were legit and then some:
“And when I say hugs, I mean THE KIND A MAMA GIVES HER BELOVED KID.”
Of course, the dads got involved as well:
And the huggers were well-received:
“Our arms were never empty. We ‘happy hugged’ a ton of folks, but dozens of times, I’d spot someone in the parade look our way, squint at our shirts and posters, and RACE into our arms.”
Some of the responses from attendees were heartbreaking. Hatmaker reports that many of the marchers had been ostracized by their families and missed the connection greatly, telling her:
“I miss this.”
“My mom doesn’t love me anymore.”
“My Dad hasn’t spoken to me in three years.”
“Please just one more hug.”
The church members offered emotional support along with their hugs:
“…we told them over and over that they were impossibly loved and needed and precious. And we hugged until our arms fell off. This is what we are doing here, what we are here for.”
The event was emotional for the volunteers and Hatmaker as well, who posted a photo from the end of the night “covered in glitter, sweat, and more than a few tears.”
As one would expect, Hatmaker’s post has been widely viewed and has received over 57,000 likes as well as comments from around the world thanking her and pointing out just how important the gesture was.
And many commenters pointed out just how hard it can be for the LGBTQ community when they fear being cut off from their families.
It’s no surprise that Hatmaker and the Free Mom Hugs movement receive such a good reception. The Human Rights Campaign reports that 42% of LGBT youth say their community is not accepting of them. They are also twice as likely to be physically assaulted at school and 92% report hearing negative comments about the LGBT community at school, on the Internet, and from their peers.
The CDC reports that parental rejection of LGBT youth has been linked to depression and the use of drugs and alcohol to cope with rejection.
It’s clear from the research and the anecdotal evidence that a little love can go a long way.
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Source: Scary Mommy