I've been struck lately by the little things people do for us that leave a lasting impression. I'm not talking about huge gestures, like buying a laptop for a poor college student so she can succeed in school or helping to fund someone's mission (both of which happened to me). Those things will no doubt have an impact on their lives; I've been touched in many ways by grand gestures of love like these. I've also been touched by the little things people have done for me, such as calling me out of the blue (not realizing I was feeling lonely in that moment) or sharing a snack with me in class when my stomach was growling. These may seem like simple things, but they can really impact someone's life.
The other day at Institute, our instructor was talking about the 4 Ts of love: time, touch, talk, and teach. Touch is the one that stood out to me, as my primary love language is physical affection. During the lesson, he quoted Dr. Harold Voth who said that "hugging can lift depression." I completely agree with that statement - I've always thought there was something magical about hugs.
A few days after this lesson someone asked me to think about a time when I felt the most loved. I was surprised when the memory that came to mind wasn't something grandiose or spectacular. It was a sweet moment shared with a guy I was dating at the time. He and I had just gotten out of an Institute class and were standing by his car talking about our day. He asked me how I was doing and gave me a knowing look after I said I was fine. I then opened up about the struggles I was facing and how I felt so hopeless in being able to change my situation. He offered a few words of comfort and then pulled me close to him. I'm not sure how he knew, but that was exactly what I needed in that moment. Just a hug. A hug that told me he was there for me. A hug that reminded me I wasn't alone. A hug to release some of the pain and frustration I was feeling. A hug that would last as long as I needed it to. I got the impression he would have held me there all night if necessary; he wasn't going to let go until I was ready. As we stood there in silence, my racing heart began to calm down and my tense muscles loosened up. I relaxed my face on his chest and soaked in his familiar scent. I felt safe and secure with his strong arms wrapped around me, and for the first time in weeks I felt at peace. My burdens began to feel lighter as I sensed the love and concern he had for me. At that moment, I knew everything was going to be OK.
I sometimes wonder if he will ever understand the impact that simple hug had on me (or if he even remembers that moment). I wonder if any of us will ever know the impact we have on others with the seemingly trivial things we do for them. Even so, I hope we'll all continue doing those simple things.
During that Institute lesson, our instructor shared a story about a mission president's wife who was struggling with their new living situation. She finally hit her breaking point and exploded into tears while confessing to her husband how much she hated it there. Before finishing the story, our instructor looked at my friend and asked what he would have said in that situation. He thought for a moment and finally admitted he wouldn't know what to do for her. My mind immediately flashed to that night from many months ago. I looked over at him and smiled to myself thinking, "You would know."