There’s an old joke we’ve all heard... which apparently does not prevent me from telling it again. A man became ill. His physician examined him, ran a battery of tests, and then informed the man’s wife that he was physically healthy and sound. “It must be psychosomatic,” the physician said. “I’ll refer him to a psychiatrist.” The next day she accompanied her husband to that appointment and waited for him in the lobby. After about an hour, the psychiatrist came out, sat beside the wife, and said: “I need to talk to you privately before you take him home. Your husband is despondent. He feels that he is deprived of love. The cure is simple. In fact, it hardly requires anything at all. All he needs is a little love. Twice a week, he just needs a good, long hug and a warm kiss on the cheek.” The woman replied, “Well, Doc, if that’s all he needs, then I’ll bring him to you on Tuesdays and Thursdays!”
Our world, like the man in that joke, could use a little more love. Internationally, fear is rampant because terrorism is rampant. Nationally, we read of random shootings and violent crimes. Furthermore, with each new day comes a new chapter of political fighting and vitriol on the parts of those who would lead us. And personally, we are aware that three-out-of-four adults claim to feel lonely. We really could use a little more love.
The truth is, of course, that if you and I need to experience more love from others, then others also need to experience the same from us. That’s why Jesus commanded His disciples to “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) That which they had received, they were called to pass along.
There’s something about loving (whether in ways that are bold or ways that are subtle) that makes the world a different place. The late Bishop Ernest Fitzgerald told a story once about a man who was a missionary to Kenya many years ago. A resident of the village where the missionary served for a quarter of a century said: “When he came to us, there was no light. When he left, there was no darkness.” I think that’s what love does. It shatters the darkness surrounding others with divine light. And that frequently occurs when we just perform simple acts of kindness – an affirming word, a listening ear, a sympathetic or supportive gesture. Those things can make all the difference for somebody else. “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
Loving is something we can do every day... not just twice a week. And as the psychiatrist in the joke said, it hardly requires anything at all. All we have to do is pass along to others the same compassion that has been passed along to us. Find a way to do that today. It will turn on the lights for someone who is battling the shadows.