We sat silently together my hand in hers for the longest time. Her husband had died, and I had no words. I’m not sure how long it was that we sat there as I listened to a clock ticking in a nearby room. Suddenly she came to herself and said, “Thank you.”
Call it friendship. Call it empathy. But it’s beyond words, it is the power of touch.
We touch with words, “Thank you.” “You’re the best!” “I love you.”
We touch with actions. Bringing homemade soup to a sick associate. Grabbing a meal in a bag for a homeless person. Raking a neighbor’s leaves.
We touch without even knowing it. Passing someone crying on a bench. Hurrying past a disabled car on the roadside without calling for roadside assistance. Mindlessly letting the door close behind us into the face of someone else.
This reminds me of a story in Luke. ‘Just who is my neighbor?’ a lawyer asked Jesus. And as the story unwinds, we see a half-dead man lying on the side of the road being ignored by two presumably holy men. One a rabbi and the other a Levite (one who cleans the temple). The third, an enemy from a rival town decided he couldn’t just leave him there to die. He poured healing oil on him, bound his wounds, and brought him to safety. Even paying the hotel debt.
Jesus made it clear that this neighbor thing was more than looking for ‘a neighbor’, it was about being a neighbor. It wasn’t only caring about but caring for someone else. It’s an action. It’s moving to help when assistance is needed.
We read in Hebrews, that Jesus was not only a rabbi, but that he is our Great High Priest. And if you consider that before we knew him, we were in essence his enemies. Thus, our Rabbi, our High Priest, the one who could consider us an enemy, found us in our woeful state and tended to our needs. Pouring the oil of salvation in our open wounds. Covering our bodies with His robe of righteousness, and He paid our insurmountable debt of sin at the cross. No matter how we look at this parable, Jesus owed us nothing, yet gave us His all.
The choice is ours: we can walk in love or throw our hurts around like knives. We can tap our toes at the long check-out line, or we can pray for the harried clerk as we wait patiently.
It may be difficult to set aside fears and frustrations, but making the most of our moments makes our lives richer. If the Great Shepherd walked and served in empathy and compassion, can’t we? If the Holiest of all Rabbis willingly left the ninety-nine in the temple to minister the one in dire need. What are we willing to do?
Sometimes all that is needed is to hold a hand. But joining people in their hard places can heal their deepest hurts. It may be uncomfortable and it’s always a sacrifice, but they’ll never forget it. And neither will you.
Praying for you in your journey, my neighbors and friends. ￼
Hebrews 4:14 Jesus, our great high priest.
2 Corinthians 1:4 Comfort those in any trouble.
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Hebrews 10:34 Stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
Luke 10:29 Who is my neighbor?