Tree signs: Hug a stranger

We’re four weeks in with the tree signs series. If you’ve missed any, don’t fret. You may read them in any order.

Today’s sign is the first one I noticed while riding along the road with a neighbor, a new friend who went out of her way to make sure this “stranger” felt welcome.

Treesigns2015_4FT

At once a biblical story came to mind: the story of the Good Samaritan.

But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied back and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt great compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”

And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

– Luke 10:29-37

This story has long been one of my favorites, a story easy enough even for a child to understand, yet complex enough for adults to stumble over.

Jesus told this story in response to a young lawyer’s question: Who is my neighbor?

It’s one thing to the love the neighbors who are like us, but the Good Samaritan story isn’t about the easy-to-love neighbors. It’s about loving and caring for strangers as if they were our neighbors, as if they were ourselves.

In Jesus’ time, Samaritans were untouchable in the eyes of the Jews, and that’s what made Jesus’ story shocking to his audience. He wanted them—and wants us—to get beyond deep-seated prejudices. The story of the Good Samaritan tells us that we are to help and care for each other regardless of our plans, our schedules or our prejudices.

Hugging friends is easy. Hugging a stranger interrupts us, maybe inconveniences us. But hugging a stranger can make all the difference to that person.

As I cried in the Atlanta airport earlier this summer, a stranger asked if I needed a hug. I had not been left for dead, but a migraine and the frustration of being stranded overnight made me feel miserable. Her kindness has stayed with me. Imagine if more of us were willing to step outside of ourselves to offer the simple gesture of a hug to a stranger.

Jesus never called us to be comfortable. He called us to do what is right, no matter how uneasy that makes us. Perhaps this modern day Samaritan will inspire you (and me) to step beyond prejudice and busyness.

Need something a bit more scientific to convince you to hug a stranger—with their permission, of course? Here you go:

  • Seven reasons we all need hugs.
  • Our need for hugs is universal.
  • And because I’m really quite distracted with the World Track and Field Championships this week, this article’s “who” bullet really caught my attention. One of the enduring images from the games so far for me is of Jeff Henderson’s coach consoling him with a long embrace after Henderson failed to finish the long jump finals. The interwebs has let me down, though, and I can’t find a picture of their hug to share with you here. (If you find it, please share the link below.)

So how can we surprise ourselves by being the Samaritan? Can I make myself step past my own fears to hug a stranger? Can you? Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end of a stranger’s hug? How was that moment a blessing for you? I’d love to hear the stories of your hugs in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Tree signs: Hug a stranger

  1. Pingback: Tree signs: Forgive | The Flourishing Tree

  2. The Good Samaritan story and The Wisdom of King Solomon were always two of my favorite stories from Sunday School…ones that really stuck with me as a child. As much “bad” as we read about and are bombarded with every day via the media, it is comforting to know that there are MORE good people in the world than what we read about and this woman that gave you the much needed hug that day is proof of it!! = ) I wish we heard more positive things in the news…I think it would influence people to become more like the good Samaritan – so giving a much needed hug to a stranger would not be such an uncommon gesture!

    • Unfortunately, good news doesn’t “sell” and doesn’t keep viewers anxious (meaning they won’t necessarily feel compelled to come back for more). I’m trying to do my part, though, and appreciate you dropping by and responding.

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