One of many things I love about my church is the time we spend in the “passing of peace”. There is nothing half-hearted about this time at all; the entire congregation leaves the comfort zone of their pew and moves about greeting other members and guests. Sometimes a simple “Peace be with you” is shared, other times it’s a question about a life event or even a small prayer. It’s a chance to meet visitors and welcome them into our home for the next hour.  The one thing I never really noticed though, is how we actually extend our greeting. Thankfully, that changed today.

One of our former interns was back to lead us in worship and the message. With her, came two friends. When I had the pleasure of greeting one of the friends, I was rewarded with the best handshake I have ever encountered. The grip was firm but not overpowering. There was eye contact, there was a bright smile, sparkling eyes and a genuine attentiveness. Although our exchange was brief, he made a lasting impression on me; so much so, I had to acknowledge him after the service (and receive another handshake). I let him know how much that touch and interaction meant to me. For a few brief seconds, there was a connection that tied two human beings together.

This Sunday morning interaction has me thinking about how we greet each other. For some, I realize that physical contact may not be welcome due to germophobia, sickness, introvertedness or past trauma. For most of us though, I like to think we do welcome and appreciate the touch of another. Sadly, for some, this brief interaction at a Sunday service may be the only touch from others they receive all week.

Despite the fact that in this day and age of being always available (phones, internet, games, social media, etc.), I believe we actually feel more alone and/or lonely than ever.

I can’t speak for everyone of course, but I crave in-person, physical connections.  I am not speaking of sexual intimacy, but the intimacy achieved when two people greet each other face-to-face and the accompanying handshake, back slap, hug or kiss.  I have made some amazing connections with people I haven’t met yet face to face. We have exciting, fun, stimulating and thought provoking conversation; but what is missing is the face to face interaction. My goal is to change that sometime soon; 2017 is that year.

Now I do know how we greet each other is relative to the circumstance. I certainly wouldn’t hug or kiss a perspective employer, but I would greet him or her with a firm confident handshake, look into their eyes, smile and make certain they know how pleased I am for the opportunity to meet with them.

When meeting my friends, it’s always a hug, kiss or both. With my church family, it depends on how I assess their needs. Knowing them as well as I do, sometimes it is a simple handshake, but more often than not, it’s a handshake with my other hand placed on top of theirs, letting them know they are being thought of a little more. Sometimes, it’s taking both hands in mine and saying a prayer. With others, it’s a handshake with one hand and my other hand on their arm or shoulder as a means of comfort.

At the end of the day, no matter how we greet each other, what we should not be is afraid. A handshake should be firm and confident, never whimpy, a hug should be comforting or genuinely full of love. A kiss should be meaningful; either on the cheek as a gesture of friendship or filled with incredible passion each time you meet no matter how many times you have kissed before.

Do not be afraid to reach out and provide that moment of human touch. Truly connect with one another throughout your day. A handshake, a smile, eye contact, and hugs are all free but are truly some of the greatest gifts we can both give and receive.