It is amazing how a stressful period of life can affect your golf game. Everything tight. Swing all over the place. Outcomes disastrous. From the first tee, off the toe of the club, with the ball coming to rest in two feet of water, that all made silence difficult. But opening one’s mouth would have only made things worse and compounded one losing moment with another.
You can imagine how bad things were when between the sixth and seventh hole one of my opponents said, “Do you need a hug?” Well in the current environment of social distancing, doesn’t everybody need a hug? It was a surprising question, but more surprising, for a man who is not a touchy-feely kind of bloke, I gave it positive consideration.
The idea of two adult men hugging on the golf course was unusual and considering how bad my game was, it was surprising to be even close enough to consider it. Would a hug work? In truth it would have been pretty ineffective when it came to improving my golf but that’s not surprising considering the golfer who offered the hug. The others in our group reckoned the offer would not last two holes. In case you are wondering, I would not have gone back for another one. But a hug is a hug and this one offered a moment of humour and the genuine warmth of friendship.
There are three realities we could all do with as the stresses and strains of life so easily crowd them out - hugs, humour and the genuine warmth of friendship. You may note I didn’t include golf, which can be humorous but often a long way from friendly. Pandemics, protests, economic woe, unemployment and isolation are hardly stress relievers. So, recognising the importance of social distancing and the limits on hugging people I would urge those of us in this increasingly depressive age to take some time out for a laugh and to offer the genuine warmth of friendship. I said “offer”. Everyone wants the warmth of friendship but that warmth does not come about by demand or protest, it comes when you give it and people appreciate and reciprocate.
In my experience it is the grumbling, demanding, protestor types who are among the loneliest people in the world. I say, “among”, because the loneliest people are those who can’t forgive or those who can never say they are sorry. These are those who never hug, for whom humour has died, and lying naked in the snow offers more warmth than their company.
After 18 holes of golf, silence was still my best option, but the hug, the humour and the warmth of friendship was a prize of great value. Indeed, sometime after the game, my hugging golf companion texted me a word of encouragement. Thank God for the friend.
It’s important to note that the hug, humour and warm friendship does not deal with the stressors in our lives. Their value is not in improving your game but in knowing you are not alone in the midst of struggle. It is one of the precious truths of Christianity that God enters our struggling world in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. The coming of Jesus Christ was God’s decision to embrace people, to bring to light the humour of life while answering the sorrows of life with the warmth of His friendship.
2020 has presented the lives of all Australians with crisis and challenge. My concern is that we have been conditioned by the good times to feel entitled not responsible. As a reasonably avid observer of life, it seems to me that we have lost something of our ability to feel empathy, to make sacrifices, to be other person centred.
Is this a wild generalisation or does it find some incremental truth in every one of us? Be honest!
The Bible makes clear that those blessed by God are blessed to be a blessing. We live in an age where people need a hug, some humour and the warmth of friendship. Try being a blessing. The alternative is being a curse.