I'll Never Write a Novel

The Memoir of a Personal Essayist OR Confessions of a Theatre Widow

Sunday, September 06, 2009

A Master's Touch

The sermon at Mass was great today and it really got me thinking. Bear with me. I've got a lot to say...

Today's Gospel spoke about how Jesus was speaking to a crowd and saw a man he knew was in need. He took the man out of the large crowd and laid his hands on him. The man had been deaf and mute since birth. Jesus' touch healed the man, who went back into the crowd and was forever changed. The crowd was changed, too.

The priest began his homily by telling a story about an estate sale where many items were spread about a room, some more alluring than others. On one table sat a violin, out of tune and covered in dust. It had a sign pricing it at just a handful of dollars. It sat and sat and sat. It was late in the day when finally a man came by and actually noticed the violin in the crowd. He gently wiped the dust away, properly tuned the strings and began playing it. In gifted hands the true value of the instrument became evident. A bidding war erupted and the violin went for thousands of dollars. Most people passed by and saw the violin for what it was in the moment, the artist saw it for what it could be. All it took was a master's touch.

Then the priest turned the storytelling to a more personal note. He spoke about when he first entered Seminary. (Side note: I love hearing stories of priests seeking and fulfilling their vocation. It never ceases to amaze me). He spoke about how truly difficult his first year was. He'd left a loving, supportive family, tons of friends and a very active life and social scene for the unknown, reclusive, and the tremendously challenging world of the priesthood. He cried often and felt lonely. He hadn't built strong enough relationships in this new life yet to have a confidant. I think, in some ways, that is a journey many people can relate to. He struggled and persevered. Then, he got to go home for a short period. He got home and felt immediately welcomed. He sat with his mom and laid his head in her lap. And he cried. And cried. And his mom took her fingertips and began running her fingers through his hair. His soul was refreshed and he felt immediately complete. A master's touch had healed him and he was refreshed-- able to go on. He could take that touch and extend it out to others.

Aside: It's no wonder that commercials and songs use the phrase, "Reach out and touch someone," or phrases like that. Even telephone commercials talk about it. You can't literally touch someone over the phone, but we all know what they mean. When someone is really moved by something they describe it as being "touching." It's not just a physical thing.

This is what Christians are called to do. It's what people are called to do. We are refreshed by the healing touch of the Lord who sees us not for what we are, but what we have the potential to be. In His presence we can become that. And, by being the fullest, best part of ourselves, we can share that touch with others. We must extend our hands out and touch those around us-- our spouses, our kids, our friends. And, we must pull people out of the crowd (maybe even strangers) and embrace them, too. The crowd can be noisy and confusing. We can bring clarity through a little kindness and a warm touch, can't we? Haven't you had that happen before, when someone touches your life or embraces you and it just changes everything?

No one I know was better at this than my mom. So many people have said that she saw the best in them, and through her they became that better person. She was never hesitant to reach out her hand and touch you-- figuratively and quite literally. She would hold me and say, "You feel nice." It's significant to know that she didn't just mean, "You make me feel better." It was more than that. This was about you, not her. Having a daughter of my own now, I understand this particular feeling in a different way. Holding The Girl feels different. She feels like something else completely, almost otherworldly sometimes. I get how my mom meant this when she said this to her kids. But, beyond that she really reached out and wasn't afraid to grab you (in a good way) and embrace you-- whoever you are. And she invited the same from others just by being. And she made you better by seeing, and feeling, who you were at your best. And she healed your soul somehow, cleared out the crowd for a moment, and you could be that best version of you. No doubt she felt that God had called her forth from a different set of gifts than she had seen in herself. God laid His hands on her and made her the best she could be. I don't know that she would say that it was ultimately clarity, but she wasn't blind or deaf or mute in the world. She was a world class violin, only better.

There is no shortage of touching in my family. I am a hugger, a hand-holder, a grabber. I come by it honestly. It's the life I have known. I really feel for the priest who spoke today about needing that touch from his mom to be whole. It's a deep part of my homesickness. I have had my sisters say to me on the phone, when we are really missing one another, "I just want to get my arms around you." That is exactly what I need. My husband does a pretty good job of it, but it's a little more of a stretch for him. He's not always the first to hug. He loves it when I reach out and pull him out of the crowd to squeeze him, or play with his hair, rub his back, hold his hand, grab his arm, slap his leg when I think something is really funny (okay maybe not that last one quite as much).

We've certainly become a family of huggers. No icky PDA here, just people ready with a warm embrace. I don't think everyone is easily inclined to such a nature, or raised to nurture the impulse. However, I think this is something that people can learn. It's something that people yearn for, whether they know it or not. Don't you think so? Little G may not always give hugs and kisses on command, but she loves to do it when you least expect it and when you need it the most. Kids come out holding on and wanting to be held. It's hard to ever let go.

So, I hope to nurture this in myself and others. I want to be a person who pulls people from the crowd and embraces them. I like to hold hands with my family and my friends, and I want people to be unafraid to be the best version of themselves. I want everyone to see themselves as a world class violin.

And I just really want a hug most of the time.