A few days ago, I was brought to tears by a hug. We’ve been going through a challenging time. Mary Helen struggles to find relief from debilitating headaches brought on by a recent hit to the head. I’ve been frustrated with both knee and feet problems limiting mobility.
The person who gave me the hug, inquired about how we were doing. Her empathy, offers of help, and specific questions about our situation, took me by surprise—but gave me immense encouragement. Not a lot of people ask questions or listen well. This woman does and she is younger than my daughter!
I try to keep my emotions under tight control. After all, I’m an Anglo-Saxon man from the era when men were taught to be strong and unemotional. We didn’t grow up with hugs in our home. We certainly didn’t tell each other “I love you”. Aside from my mother’s affection, that’s just the way it was in a home of four boys.
Over the years I’ve gradually mellowed under the influence of church friends and Mary Helen’s more caring personality. Our kids grew up to be more comfortable with hugs and statements of affection. And our grandkids are even more loving. Whenever we leave the home of those nearby, they always hug us and say, “I love you, grandpa; I love you, grandma.” Our first great-grandchild is even more affectionate. We get hugs coming and going!
And to think that I once tried to convince a congregation of huggers that I wasn’t the hugging type. Right after the service, when I mentioned this as part of a sermon illustration, one of the ladies came up and gave me a big hug! I must say that I’m still leery of inveterate huggers, but that act warmed my heart.
There is power in touch. A week or two ago, one of our deacons gripped me on the shoulder as he encouraged me. His gesture expressed his interest and concern. Much more commonly now, without every thinking about it, I touch people on the arm or the shoulder in an attempt to connect. I even parcel out hugs, somewhat grudgingly, I admit.
Words are certainly the most powerful vehicle of encouragement. But there is an important place for a strong handshake or a hug—whatever is encouraged in your community. It is common in many cultures for men to embrace each other once, twice, even three times. Our youngest son, born in Pakistan, insists on greeting me with three bear-hugs! Whether by word or touch, or hug or smile, we all need the assurance that others are interested in us. Concern and connection can often be expressed by touch. Didn’t the Apostle Paul urge Christians to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Cor. 16:20)?
(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )