Shoulders slumped, my disheartened friend told me of her lifeless marriage and loveless husband. Her life before her marriage had been no better. I listened to her story--her heart--and offhandedly assured her, "You are special," and was about to continue talking when I noticed she began sobbing. Alarmed, I asked her what was upsetting her at that moment. What was wrong; did i say something to upset her? She assured me her tears weren't fueled by sadness. They were tears of gratitude. "No one has ever told me that." Three words mediated deep affirmation to the core of her being. Three words. Who would have thought?
I believe EVERYTHING we say or do is sacramental. Let me explain. The Church defines a sacrament in varying ways: 1. a rite in which God is uniquely active 2. a religious symbol or often a rite which conveys divine grace, blessing, or sanctity upon the believer who participates in it, or a tangible symbol which represents an intangible reality 3. signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. In church life, baptism and the Eucharist would be two sacraments, i.e. two rites or acts which convey or dispense much more than what would appear to be the case. It's just a wafer. No, the church believes that in the eating of that wafer or piece of bread something very deep and intimate occurs in terms of encountering Christ's presence.
It's ALL sacramental. Everything we do has the power to dispense, to impart something deep and loving to another person. Three words. Who would have thought?
Many years ago, in my early 20's, I went through a divorce. It broke my heart. The dissolution of that relationship rocked me. It was an existential earthquake that left me in ruins. I catapulted from remorse to rage, from pleading with God to cursing him. I remember one day I was sitting in the sand at Ocean Beach (San Diego) where I lived at the time. I was a hippie and had thick wavy hair. I was absolutely despondent, looking down into the grains of sand, thinking and thinking. I was feeling so alone and unwanted, so discarded. A young woman walking by, reached down, tousled my hair, said something to the effect of "Hi," and continued her way down the beach. When she reached down and rumpled my hair, her touch served as a sacrament. Those two seconds of touch stuck with me the rest of my life. She had no idea, but her doing so assured me that though feeling so utterly discarded, I, indeed, was not a leper. I was still touchable, still worthy of being loved. Two seconds of touch.
Though we live in the same city, I don't see my son all that frequently these days. However, when we do get together we invariably greet each other with a three-step ritual handshake. I don't greet anyone else in that manner. It's only a handshake but it speaks volumes. It says we're still tight, we're still father and son, we still love-- and are loved by-- each other. A handshake.
It's ALL sacramental.
You never know the healing impact you may have on another person. You never know and you may never. That girl walking down the beach thirty-five years ago had--and has--no idea the what she did. She didn't merely tousle my hair. She touched my heart.
You never know.