Debby had a really good post recently (well, all of her posts are good but this one was especially poignant) about seeing a man at church hugging his little girl particularly tight after a Christmas pageant. Debby could see tears in his eyes and she wondered to herself what his story might be.
And she offered a prayer on his behalf. Sometimes -- many times -- that's the best thing we can offer someone.
Her story reminded me of a scene I saw in the airport in Mexico last January as we were about to board our plane for home after our New Year's vacation. I was sitting there at our gate, reflecting on the past week of fun and laughs with my family, when my eyes drifted to the gate next to ours. A man about my age, maybe a little younger, was standing in line with his two daughters and son. The girls looked to be college-aged, or close to it, and the boy looked to be 14 or 15.
As they got close to the entry to the plane, he began hugging each one of them, then got out of line and stood a few feet away from them. They were getting on the plane and he was not. One of the girls came out of line and gave him another hug. She was trying hard not to cry. She got back in line, and then the other two went over to him for another hug. They were all fighting tears. He held them each tightly, one at a time.
As they went through the gate, each of them turned around and gave him a big smile and he waved and smiled too.
"We had a great time, Dad," one of them said. He smiled again and gave one more big wave before they walked down the ramp and he lost sight of them.
The minute they were out of sight, his shoulders slumped and he walked over to a chair, sat down in it and put his head in his hands. He obviously lived in a different location than they and their departure no doubt offered a stinging reminder of that fact.
I wanted to go over to him and tell him that no matter what might have happened in the past with him and the kids' mom, I was proud of him for spending a few days in Mexico with his children, making memories. I wanted to put my arms around him and tell him what a great dad I though he was and that there was plenty of time to repair any damage that might have been done.
I wanted to tell him that I could see by their eyes that his daughters and son loved him very much and he could spend each day building on that, no matter how far apart they might live from each other.
I wanted to tell him all those things but obviously I didn't know the full story and I had not earned the right to say those things to him. I don't know, maybe I should have.
But I'll never forget that scene and I'm glad Debby reminded me I should pray for him, whoever he is and wherever he might be.
Because sometimes -- many times -- that's the best thing we can offer.