“Carry each other’s burdens . . .” – Galatians 6:2
My parents were, generally speaking, affectionate people – toward each other, their children, family, and friends with whom they had close relationships. Yet I seldom recall my Mom and Dad holding hands; that is, until they were up on years. By then they seemed to be holding hands a lot, notably when they were out and about, crossing the street, going up and down steps, or navigating unfamiliar places.
To say they had reverted to being like two smitten teenagers sitting in a movie theater might be a bit of an exaggeration; rather at that stage in their lives hand-holding had become more of a practical matter, of providing physical and emotional support, less so about romance. Yet, as I observed them grasping on to each other in those later years it occurred to me that they were displaying the deepest form of affection, affection that had evolved from a lifetime commitment of taking care of one another, the kind of love that transcends what two starry-eyed teenagers could ever imagine. This has become even more clear as my spouse and I approach the age when affectionate hand-holding seems to be evolving into a more practical matter.
As a practical matter, however, hand-holding is not limited to only those in intimate relationships. Jesus gives a remarkable example of this in his parable about a man on the road to Jericho who was attacked by robbers, beaten and left for dead, until a total stranger appeared who treated the man’s wounds, then put him on his donkey and carried him to the next village where he paid out of his own pocket for lodging and medical care. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a hand-holding story as surely as my elderly parents holding hands to cross the street, only strangers instead of life-long partners.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are to “carry each other’s burdens.” The thing I noticed about my parents was that sometimes it would be my Mom helping my Dad, and other times my Dad helping my Mom. Either way, they were holding hands. We are all like that, aren’t we? At times we have burdens that are more than we can handle. At other times we have extra capacity to help someone else struggling with a burden. Either way, we grab hands and help each other through. Holding hands, it is almost magical how much better off we are when we do.