Reach Out and Touch Someone

Some of us are old enough to remember Diana Ross’ anthem, urging everyone to “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand.” If not, maybe you’re old enough to remember the AT&T commercial to “Reach out and touch someone” (Note: for those of you too young to remember this, don’t be alarmed by the cords that used to connect handsets to phones and phones to walls).

Nowadays, “reaching out” is something too often confined to the business world “Let’s reach out to the folks in H.R. and ask about that,” or “Let’s reach out to Sally and take her temperature on the new proposal.” Or, as I just now heard the guy at the table next to me at Starbucks (literally just as I was writing this!): “I reached out to Bill in Accounting and still haven’t heard back”. Unfortunately though, for all the “reaching out” in the business world, there’s a drought of reaching out in the rest of our fragmented lives.

Modern life has brought many advances to society, but for all the free time that technology was supposed to give us, we find it hard to “reach out” when we’re not doing it for work. Parents don’t hear often enough from their grown children, grandparents don’t get many visits from their grand-kids, neighbors too often that we have never met, and folks that are either recovering from an illness or lingering through a progressive one receive few (and sometimes no) visits from their relatives, friends, coworkers or fellow church members. There are a few valid reasons why this is the case, but mostly just thin excuses. Without even noticing it, we’ve busied ourselves, hurried ourselves, and isolated ourselves so much that many live their lives, day in and day out, with no one reaching out to them.

I’m happy to say that there are some in our parish community who are wonderful examples of what the rest of us should be like: they make regular visits to elderly relatives, and even non-relatives. They pick up the phone several times a week to check in on relatives, friends and fellow parishioners who are ill or going through tough times. They are regulars at Dollar Tree, stocking up on “Get

Well Soon”, “Congratulations!” and sympathy card to send out to those whose burdens will be eased and joys shared, even a little, by receiving someone’s care.

While we can’t bend the curve of societal trends, we can decide to work to change ourselves. As a parish community, we have a history of mutual support, frequent interactions and celebrating and suffering together. The growth of the parish over the years and the cultural trends all around us may have taken their toll on the amount of reaching out we do, both within our parish and without to non-parishioner friends and relatives and even strangers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t decide to buck the trends and become the people we know we want to be.

The one we call our Lord and Master, Jesus, is the greatest example of one who reached out. In this period following Pascha, we hear several of the stories of His reaching out in the Sunday Gospels. This Sunday, we’ll hear how He reached out and gave sight to the man born blind. In the previous few weeks, we heard how he reached out to the woman at the well and the man who lay paralyzed for 38 year by the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. And we heard early on after Pascha how He reached out and touched Thomas and invited him in turn to touch Him and believe.

As our Master, He acts, and we imitate and obey. Reaching out to those who could use a visit, a call or a note is one of the basic things we do as Christians. As we heard on the Sunday of the Last Judgement, our eternal estate will be determined by whether or not we reach out to the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned. So it’s time we put some concerted effort in this.

As a parish, this begins with visits from the clergy, who bring the healing presence of Christ in the Sacraments of Confession, Communion, and Unction. Because of our growing need in this area, I’ve asked Fr. Elias and our Deacons to join me in making sure that our homebound parishioners receive more frequent sacramental visits. I thank them for their immediate and emphatic commitment to work with me in this ministry. But while this work begins with the Clergy, it can’t end there. All of our Fellowship Groups–our Teens, Young Adults, Men, Women and our Forerunners are being asked to consider how they as a group can put some attention into this good work. But even that is not enough. We must all personally work to imitate the silent witness of those fellow parishioners who quite frequently and consistently reach out to those who are blessed by their efforts.

Let’s face it: we’re not too busy to do this. Our lives are not so full that we can’t rearrange not only our schedules, but our priorities too. Doing these things will make us more the people we want to be because in doing so, we become more of who we were always meant to be. Since being a Christian means being a “little Christ” (the meaning of the word “Christian”), let’s live life in the world as He designed it to be: where people never suffer without the support of many, where caring for those near and far is normal, and where no one is ever really alone. Let’s all work to reach out and touch someone. It really will make their world a better place, if we can.