Trish grew up in a home where religion was practiced spasmodically. When she was high-school age, the academy principal visited her home and persuaded her parents that Trish should come to the academy.
Looking back, Trish reminisced on those days, "This was a blessing for me, Living in a burned-out trailer in the middle of the desert was no place fora teenage girl, Going to the academy was wonderful! I enjoyed being there and entering into the activities of the school, But the girls dean was so cold. She didn't realize that I wasn't a naughty girl; I only needed a hug."
As I listened to Trish and saw her now as a beautiful young wife and mother, who no longer attended church, I reflected on her words and thought, "If only love was practiced, how many more happy lives there would be."
As women of the church, how do we minister to one another and give that "hug?"
Like Trish, many women have told me they feel the need for women counselors—not necessarily professional counselors, but a friend who will listen and keep their confidences. They need someone who will sympathize and offer a word of encouragement in love. Ministering to one another is not necessarily giving advice and telling others what would be best for them but rather taking time to share and to listen.
I live in a rural area where neighbors are separated by miles. But we have close emotional ties and take time for each other. Our day may be planned from beginning to end, but if a neighbor calls and needs a ride to the doctor, the answer is "yes." If there is a death in a family, food is prepared and taken to the home with love and a "hug." A young mother may need a baby-sitter on short notice and time is made to help her by caring for the children. Loneliness and discouragement are often dealt with by a phone call to one another—laughter and conversation are wonderful antidotes. We care for each other and make time to be a good neighbor. Our daily schedule may be completely revised but we feel we have given and received a hug.
Women who work together on church projects, in the office, at school or other areas are in an ideal place to give that extra hug. How easy it is to say, "You were especially kind to your student," "I like the way you did the decorations," "Your presentation was thoughtfully prepared and clearly presented," "The meeting was well arranged," "You did a good job!" Forget competitiveness and envy. You receive back as much love as you give.
When ministering to other women, don't forget the "little" women—daughters, granddaughters, and young women in the church or neighborhood. Speak kindly, positively and with encouragement to them whenever possible. Write notes to let them know you appreciated or enjoyed something they did at church or elsewhere. Compliment them on their new glasses, hair, poise, clothes, or scholastic achievements. Invite them to your home and do something special for different ones individually. When visiting with them—and do visit with them—respect their opinions, listen to their comments. You will learn something and maybe you will get a hug while giving one.
Also, remember those who are single. Value their contributions to the church, the community, and family. Share your home and a meal with them and include them in special plans and activities. Don't think of single women as a threat or as someone whose main goal in life is to find a spouse. Many single individuals have chosen that lifestyle and would like others to accept that they are happy with their choice and with their involvement in their careers.
Women who are living alone in the later years of life also need the attentions we are able to give. An invitation to lunch, a ride to the shopping center, or a visit on the telephone all help to make their days more pleasant. Sending a letter or card in the mail will also give them a lift. And too, the wisdom they have gained through their years of life will often make our lives easier if we will seek it. As we spend time with these women, we not only give a hug but most certainly receive one.
As Jesus ministered to people, He was sensitive to their needs and hugged people in many ways. Don't be afraid to give a hug. You may feel that some don't need it and will he put off at your attempt to give one. But I believe you will he surprised at how many are waiting for that caring attention. Even the most confident, well-adjusted woman needs a hug.
Life includes numerous responsibilities, and can be very complex at times, but try accepting the challenge of caring and sharing a hug with those who come to you in their need. And don't forget to reach for and accept the love that ..ther women of your church are so willing and ready to give you. Everyone must he willing to receive a hug as well as to give one.