We tend to be too we centered. For far too many of us, life revolves around our own convenience and things happening exactly the way we want them. When I lived in the U.S., I was always amused by how much time people would take just picking out a brand of cereal, for example. There was no rush as folks would slowly push their carts up and down the aisles spending a lot of time deciding on what brand of beef jerky to buy, or whether pickles were really needed or not. What was amusing was to see these same people take their own sweet time loading up their cart, but boy when it came time to check out, it was like they had a relative in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Trying to choose the fastest line, getting angry at the woman with eleven items in the “ten items or less” check out line. We (I’m including myself) would get angry at every red light, every person driving slower as if they had planned to inconvenience me. I would get angry because the microwave was too darned slow. What was important, was me, my time, my being able to choose to do what I wanted. I would get angry at the phone if it rang because I was doing something else at the time. I would immediately forget anyone who let me cut in line, or waved me through at an intersection. My parents and siblings were not the “huggy” or “touchy-feely” kind. We almost never touched, hugged, or kissed. I can only remember one time, when my father was in his seventies that he hugged me. My mother made such a big deal out of it, he never did it again.
Happily for me, I had an Aunt Helen and an Aunt Kitty who hugged, kissed, held hands, and made me feel like I really was worth something. They knew the world did not revolve around them and put others first. Helen had no children but her twenty-six nephews and nieces knew that Aunt Helen loved them no matter what. Aunt Helen would buy a convertible so her nephews and nieces could drive a car with the top down. She would make me read a poem I once wrote about thanksgiving when I was in high school years later and would always cry every time I read it. Aunt Kitty had twelve children of her own, yet included me and my sister as if we were just her kids with different last names. When I had serious heart trouble in my fifties while living in Arkansas, she organized a prayer group in Houston that still prays for me. Hugs and kisses were just her and Aunt Helen’s hearts on the outside that welcomed us in. Aunt Helen passed away after I had entered the ministry and in her will insisted that I, a protestant, would play a central part in her funeral mass as she and Kitty were both devout Catholics. I still have the crucifix that used to hang in Aunt Helen’s kitchen here in Africa in our prayer chapel. Aunt Kitty has a school here named after her here in Africa, but she insisted it be called St. Teresa’s because she loved Mother Teresa and because I love Aunt Kitty, that school is named St. Teresa’s. I can close my eyes and remember the feel of their cheeks, the smell of their perfume, and the hugs that always lasted much longer than I thought but never long enough. Both of those aunts helped me financially off and on and Helen remembered me in her will and Kitty still helps with our mission, but that’s not why I remember them. I remember their touch. I remember their caring about what was happening to me. I remember their listening to me when I was still wet behind the ears and thought too much of myself. Every child and every adult needs to be hugged, kissed on the cheek, and to have someone who will listen to them, even if what they are saying isn’t all that important. My Aunt Helen and my Aunt Kitty always showed me they loved me and treated me with respect. A rather large part of my heart is occupied by those two wonderful women. My prayer is that I will give to others what they gave to me—their hearts, ears, kisses, and hugs when I needed them so badly. There are many children who can only realize the gifts God gave them if they have an Aunt Helen or an Aunt Kitty in their lives. Maybe you can be that person who may change the world with a hug, a smile, or a listening ear. I thank God I had two ladies from Houston who changed me and maybe helped me change the world for others. One, I will have to wait to hug until God calls me home, the other I will have to wait until the next time I’m in Houston, so probably about the same time. I love you both and will never be able to put into words how you changed my life with your love. Just know that wherever I am, I am carrying you inside my heart as long as I draw breath.