Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by Rev. John Farmer

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People come into our lives for a reason

Behavioral scientists are teaching about human touch and what is appropriate and what is not. I can add no fodder to the debate. This I know: Everyone I know in the helping professions is getting nervous about human contact. False charges are so easily murmured.

Sadly, our society is moving toward a neutral expression of human kindness. We are such a litigious generation that we want to sue everybody else. We demand our road rules, express them with rage. We defend and protect our property with fences. We are losing our civility.

I really hadn’t thought much about it, you see, I was so busy being caught up in the tide that I failed to swim against it. In my early years in ministry I was privileged to be in places just packed with children. It was a weekly assignment to give a pat, place a hug and usually at the front door of the church. Handshakes bid adieu. Hugs meant I love you…

Wait, some of the kids who need hugging the most have no parents at home. It is entirely possible that whatever human expression our children are exposed to may even be less appropriate than what a teacher, doctor, nurse, counselor or minister might offer. I have measured the risk and wonder why we are so frightened to express love.

Some years spent, a colleague caught me completely off guard. I expected an extended hand; a firm shake. He plowed past my paw, wrapped his arms around me and nearly hugged the life out of me. Then he said, “I was so afraid that you were going to die and I would never get the chance to thank you, to express my love to you.”

Ponder what is appropriate in your setting. Find a way to share the love of Christ. Listen carefully: words are not enough, some days.

There is a tender story wafting about (author unknown to me) which lifts human touch to a higher plane: read along: “There once was a lad who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long way to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey.

“When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man. He was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. As he was about to take a drink from his root beer he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him a Twinkie. The fellow gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. His smile was so incredible that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer. Once again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

“Together they sat all afternoon eating and smiling, never saying a word. The day grew dark. The boy realized he was tired and got up to leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps; he turned around, ran back to the old man and gave him a hug. The old man gave him his biggest smile ever and a cloak of hugs.

“A short while later, as the boy opened the door at home, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face and asked, ‘What did you do today that made you so happy?’

“He replied, ‘I had lunch with God!’ Before his mother could respond, he added, ‘You know what? He’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!’

“Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and asked, ‘Dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?’

“He replied, ‘I ate Twinkies in the park with God.’ But before his son could respond, he quipped, ‘You know, he’s much younger than I expected.’

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

“People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”

I believe risky behavior is when we feel that something is right to do and let the world dictate to us what its ever-changing standards are. Tenderness, caring and compassion are not lost arts, are they? The love of Christ is unchanging. All about us things are getting so impersonal. A jolt of human kindness can empower another to heights yet unattained.

The hymn “He Touched Me,” sings: “Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘Neath a load of guilt and shame, then the hand of Jesus touched me and now I am no longer the same.

“He touched me, oh He touched me and oh the joy that floods my soul! Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.”

Lots of the anger inherited in our world will melt when confronted with pure love.

I pray God will touch you in every relationship.