My wife and I have had a few conversations with (4 year-old) Jacob lately about boundaries. He's always running over to strangers in the library, the grocery store, etc. and giving them a hug…and often a kiss (usually on the hand.) While most ladies find him sweet and charming and most men pat him on the back and say, "Thanks, buddy!" we realized that some folks might be offended. So I talked to him and told him that I was so proud of him for loving people and his caring heart but maybe he should just ask before he hugs someone he doesn't know.
Today, as we sampled an organic energy bar at Costco, he forgot to ask. He reached out of the cart, took the elderly African-American woman's hand, and planted a kiss on her wrist. I nearly scolded him…until I saw her reaction. Tears. She said she had been having a rough time and that his act of love just melted it all away. She asked his name. He told her…first, middle, and last. She said, "You have two biblical names, Jacob. And I think God sent you my way to bless me today! Can I hug you?" Jacob smiled and said, "Yeah! You can!" Their hug melted everything inside me, too. (Cont. below.)
I'm proud of my boy and the heart for people he was given. I'm grateful that my admonishment was forgotten for a moment. Honestly, I felt a bit ashamed for being at all worried about what his wild love for everyone might bring. Turns out, it brings joy to a weary soul…and laughter to the heartbroken. I know that love comes from a well deeper than my boy possesses and am thankful that God has made him slow to turn off the faucet.
The lesson? Love with abandon. Hug someone who looks like they need it. If you aren't a charming 4 year old, ask first. But don't be afraid of it. Don't stay your hand when it comes to sharing what grace and love you've been given to the whole of the world. It's just how Jacob rolls…and Daddy needs to be a bit more like his son.
J. Patrick Lemarr is the author of The Witches of Greyfolk,