These days, it seems that I’ll get a post written, start editing, and then something will happen and I’ll find my words to be so desperately small, inadequate.
My priest and I had just stepped to the back of the church yesterday morning to begin the opening hymn and processional when we heard the news of the shooting in Baton Rouge. The look on her face said it all. No words were necessary. We all feel it. We all wonder, when will the violence stop?
The Gospel reading yesterday was the story of Mary and Martha. I am a self-admitted Martha. I get so busy being, well…….busy, that I often forget to just stop. Be still. Embrace the moment. It is a daily struggle for me to just pause, breathe, and sometimes to stop thinking so dang much.
There were 5 of us at church yesterday. We had people traveling, people in the hospital, and others who were just absent. It would have been easy to focus on the fact that there were so few of us, or on the fact that, just a short distance away there was a city on lockdown. But, once the service started, as I have always noticed when in a worship environment, once you begin focusing on the Divine, and not on the circumstances, somehow everything else seems…..less frightening. And that is the case whether there are 5 in a congregation or 500.
What’s my point and what does any of this have to do with Hugs and Kisses?
Reagan’s first kisses were of the toddler variety. Sloppy, sticky, and what we in the south refer to as “baby sugar”. There is no substitute. Her hugs were awkward, spontaneous, but genuine. The affection of a child is offered innocently, completely, without merit. Jesus has told us on more than one occasion just how much like children we should become.
Hugs and kisses sound simplistic, but they’re not. They offer, sometimes, what words cannot. Connection. Intimacy. Encouragement. Even peace.
In the Episcopal liturgy, we pause after a time of prayer to “pass the peace.” We speak peace to one another, but it is also a time of many hugs, welcoming strangers and friends alike.
There’s something about “touch” that represents worth. I hold in my mind pictures I’ve seen of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. Mother Teresa being known for her work with the leper community and Diana for her outreach to AIDS patients. Both of these marginalized groups were so thankful that anyone would touch them, let alone an icon of spirituality or royalty. They were shown what each of us craves: worth. And they were shown worth by someone not being afraid to touch them and embrace them.
We seem to be born with a need for physical affection. There are stories of psychological experiments being done on newborns, withholding emotional nurturing of any kind and only tending to their physical needs. It is said that the result of these experiments was death. Does that tell you of the inexplicable need we have for outward signs of love?
Physical affection is so important. We can hold onto our beliefs with an iron fist. We can be political activists and warriors for social justice. But love is something we have to demonstrate, not just espouse.
Certainly my daughter and my husband know I love them. I do things for them all the time. But it’s not just about the daily activities, it’s about quiet moments of intimacy. Stroking my daughter’s hair while she lays on my shoulder, snuggled up watching a TV show. Holding my husband close and kissing him, embracing him, holding hands.
In these fearful times, it is natural for us to hold our loved ones a little closer. But we should be doing that anyway. I read a quote this week that said every time we look at someone or something, we should do so as if it were the first time and the last time.
I think that’s a good philosophy. So next time you hug your child, pretend it’s the first and last time you’ll ever get the chance. The next time you kiss your spouse, make it count. The next time you pass the peace, take their hands, look into their eyes, and mean the words you say.
It’s also a good reminder to treat every encounter you have today as a Divine appointment. You know not what burden someone else is shouldering. We present our best selves to the world, but all of us, every one of us, struggle inside. All the more reason to show love. To all.
From the outside looking in, sometimes it feels like this world is completely destroying itself from the inside out. It becomes clearer and clearer to me that there’s no president that can fix our broken world. No policy. No movement. Much like the transformation of thinking that happened to me in church yesterday, when I stop focusing on the presidential election, the violence that overwhelms our society these days, and focus on the Divine, I am reminded of this truth: Loving one another is our only option if we want to leave this world better than we found it. And these days, to simply survive it with our soul intact.
There are some who won’t receieve love, no matter how much you try to give it or show it. But for every one of those people there are at least a dozen more who need a hug today. Who need someone to show them their worth. They may be your best friend, or they may be a perceived enemy, but the need is the same: for you to stop weighing their worth and simply show them love.
Be that person. Today, and always. Life is much too short and too precious to love carefully. Love as a little child, as God does, completely, unconditionally, with reckless abandon.