It’s the eye contact that lingers a little too long, the hug that squeezes a little too hard, the handshake that practically rips your arm off, the pause that befalls a conversation where we feel the need to say, “Anyhow…” It’s that fake sentence that has become a greeting rather than a question: “Hi, how are you?” “Good thanks, how are you?”…. as our eyes and body language have already moved onto the next person.
We’ve taken warmth and affection and put a time limit on it. We’ve taken a heart felt question and turned it into a sterile greeting. We’ve taken the beautiful silence in conversation (and never mind life in general) and labeled it as awkward – as ‘space’ that needs to be filled with token spew. So much so, that anything outside of these unspoken social cues and parameters are quickly label as different. Or strange. Or weird.
I was reminded of this last Sunday in church.
This handicapped man in my congregation came up to me and hugged me. I had sung a tribute song in honour of my dear friend Kristen’s passing, and well, I completely fell apart. I butchered the crap right out of that song – my apologies to the songwriters (and congregation) – and Max tracked me down in the foyer afterwards to offer his condolences. He was crying while saying, “O-o-oh Ci-Ci-Ci-Cindy, it it it was so bootiful. It it it was j-j-j-j-ust bootiful.”
His hug lingered a little too long and I found myself scrambling to figure out what to do. He pulled me away, looked me in the eyes as tears were streaming down his face, then he hugged me again. I scrambled again. Two hugs? Habitually I wanted to break free just to have my boundaries back, but impulsively I did the opposite. I put everything down that I was holding, including my kid, and I full-heartedly bear hugged him. My eyes watered as I looked him in the eyes and said, “Thank you for such a genuine response, Max.”
That interaction was memorable.
It was meaningful.
It was warm.
It was heart-felt.
It was refreshing.
But it was different.
It was beautifully different.
All this week I have found myself thinking about this thought: I wonder how many other people in my circles – ones I’ve labeled as different conversationalists, different personalities, different religions, different parenting styles, different thinkers, different life approaches – are beautifully different? I wonder how many of them could leave memorable impressions on my life if I were to simply choose to put down my “stuff,” and fully embrace them?
Is this not what it means to love our neighbours?
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Huh! That’s odd. Nowhere in this scripture – or in the bible for that matter – do I find: love your neighbour only if they act, think, look, dress, hug, talk, live, parent, eat, believe…. and obey social cues… exactly like you.