Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
~ Luke 10:36 - 37
A woman from a parish I pastored years ago was living in a nursing facility. During the course of a month she fell three times and had to be made a "fall precaution." No one could understand why she was falling. She went through a series of tests, changes in medicines, and even rehabilitation. Then one day we were sitting together outside on the facility's patio in the garden when she told me, "You know why I fall? It's the only time someone takes the time to touch me when they pick me up."
My heart just sank. All along everyone was looking to the physical reason why she was falling, and no one had considered the emotional need not being met.
She shared that she didn't have many visitors. Most of her friends had either died or were homebound as well. Her daughter lived out of town, and visited her mother when she could. "You just can't imagine how long my days are," she continued, "and sometimes no one even touches me."
She began to cry as I hugged her, and we just sat together holding hands.
So often we forget that there are those around who simply need a kind word, or simply a hug.
We have become a society that seems to have created boundaries that go beyond healthy. I can remember learning how to give proper "side hugs" while volunteering at camp. Even now in my role as a hospice chaplain I will always ask if I can give someone a hug before even beginning to reach out.
I remember the story of the Samaritan who took the man, beaten and bloody, and carried him to a place of safety, taking care of his needs until he was healthy enough to be on his own again. The man was cared for someone who was thought to be unclean.
The time that Jesus made mud from dirt, wiped it on the eyes of a blind man, telling him to wash and to be healed. Jesus uses his own spit to make the salve to place on the man's eyes. Not something I would recommend, but it reminds us that sometimes we overlook one small thing needed to make a difference in how the healing takes place.
There are countless stories and times in scripture when simple words and gestures made for Biblical results!
After learning of the woman's reason, I shared with a Sunday School class what I had learned, as well as the staff at the facility. A "hug a day," became our mission! Sunday School members coordinated visits to the home, hugging not just the woman, but others as well, including the staff that worked at the facility. Just that simple effort kept her from falling again.
We just simply need to remember that even the simplest gesture of kindness towards one another can make a difference in someone's life and the world for that matter.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.