I am one of those people. You know, the ones that strike up a conversation with you in the check out line at Kohl’s or might chase you down because you dropped a quarter and didn’t realize it. I believe at the heart of my impetuous nature is a desire to make connections and help others, but every now and then my boldness backfires. Today I want to tell you about a time when it backfired enormously.
It was the spring semester of my freshman year at Freed-Hardeman University. A cute guy I had several classes with had asked me out just a week earlier. I suppose we were a couple but it was that early point in a relationship when you’re not even sure how to label yourselves. The annual bible lectureships were beginning and his family always comes for several days to soak up all the good preaching and teaching. So as we walked to chapel together, he informed me that I would get to meet his family. (Eek!)
Side note: I come from a very small family. No first cousins – all of us can easily fit around a table at a restaurant. So when he said “family”, I was envisioning two to four individuals.
As I rounded the corner to enter Balcony A, where his “family” would meet us, I was greeted with over a dozen family members, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Already, I was feeling a little overwhelmed and self-conscious! Thankfully, chapel was beginning, so after some very brief hellos, we all sat down and listened to the chapel program.
After the final amen was spoken, we all stood up and began to converse a little more. His parents wanted to take us to lunch and we were discussing where we should go. As I was talking to his father, I couldn’t help notice a very long wiry hair sticking out from below his necktie. It was so long, my brain convinced me that this hair had detached from its home, and I would be doing the man a favor if I quickly swiped it away for him. Bad brain! What were you thinking??
And then I did it.
I reached out and pulled the chest hair of the father of the boy I had been dating for a whole three days.
And it was attached.
It. Was. Attached.
Seeing the man flinch brought me out of my temporary insanity and I realized in a horrific instant what I had done. My mouth dropped open and I nervously met the man’s gaze. But his look of shock quickly dissolved into an enormous grin and the circle of family erupted in laughter. My faux pas, albeit massive, was actually a really good ice breaker and our remaining visit with them was quite relaxed.
Oh, and that man is now “Poppy” to my kids ?. Two years after “the chest hair incident”, that cute boy walked me down the aisle, despite all of my awkward ways.
So, what’s the moral to this story? What can we learn from my occasional impulsive, impetuous, knows-no-social-bounds behavior?
I think we’ve become a little gun shy. We’re afraid we might offend someone by offering to help them. Rather than comforting a hurting friend, sometimes we remain silent, afraid we might say the wrong thing.
While I don’t necessarily advocate pulling strangers’ body hair, I think there is something really important about reaching out (maybe a little less literally) and helping someone. And such as in my case, sometimes the need isn’t truly there – but that effort, that display of concern is, I believe, a big part of living a life reflective of Christ. I know I won’t always get it right (case in point), and I might accidentally overstep, but I will always try!