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A hope note

Earlier this year I returned to my hometown and went to church on Sunday morning. I saw people there I had not seen since I left home 45 years ago. Upon the pronouncement of the benediction, I make my way to a 90-something-year-old woman in a wheelchair. Among other things I said to her, ‘Did I ever tell you that you were the best Sunday School teacher I ever had?’
Then I grabbed the arm of a man who had been my Scout leader, identified myself, and said, ‘Did I ever thank you for that backpack you loaned me for my first camp-out?’
After church I visited a man who was in the last stages of cancer. When I was growing up, he had been like a second father to me. I knew I’d never see him again. I said, ‘I’m so grateful to you for giving me my first job, for teaching me how to meet the public, make change and wrap gifts.’
I was a man on a mission that day, obsessed with getting around to the old people who had blessed me, wanting to bless them back before it was too late.
As I was leaving that last home, the dying man’s oldest son (who had taken his parents into his home to care for them) walked me outside and told me on the front porch, with great pain on his late-50s face, ‘You know, as good as my dad has always been to me and to everyone else in this town, never once has he told me he loved me or hugged me.’ He related how his younger brother, several days earlier, went to their dad, took him by both arms and declared: ‘Dad, I need you to understand how very much I love you.’ Then he put his arms around his dad, held him tight and said: ‘I’m not going to let you go until you tell me you love me and until you hug me back.’
It was Victor Hugo who said, ‘We live by affirmation more than bread.’ A defining moment ‘ good for a lifetime ‘ becomes possible when one person sends, and another receives, the ultimate blessing: ‘You are precious in my sight.’

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