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The Power of a Mother's Touch

Elisa Morgan writes in "The Power of a Mother's Touch”:

I was in line at the grocery checkout. A few feet in front of me, a mother guided her toddler ahead, anchored her baby on her hip, and elbowed her checkbook open to pay the clerk. In what seemed like one single gesture, she retrieved her toddler's hand from the candy rack, tore the check from her book and offered it to the clerk while placing a comforting smooch atop her baby's head. The baby drooled down the mother's shoulder, the toddler clamp-gripped his mom's leg, and the other wrapped her arms about both while waiting for her payment to be processed.

As I wheeled my cart to my car, I noticed another woman with her kindergarten-age son, rushing into the store I was exiting. Suddenly she stopped and glanced down at her child, reached in her pocket, and brought out a wadded Kleenex. Moistening it with her tongue, she swabbed it about his dirty face. He resisted, but only briefly. Satisfied with her work and his appearance, she stuffed the tissue back in her pocket, took up his waiting hand again, and marched into the store.

As I approached my car, I noticed a woman and her teenage daughter chat [in animated fashion]. Hands flew—it wasn't an argument exactly, more a debate. The daughter, almost six inches taller than the mother, inclined her head downward. The mother rolled her eyes and patted her daughter's back. As they reached their car, the mother tossed the daughter the car keys and watched her daughter's face break into shock.

Writing to the Thessalonians about his commitment to lead them with both lessons and life, Paul describes his posture as being "like a mother caring for her little children." In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, he gave his followers an example that wove words with love, truth with touch.

I thought of his words as I drove home and schlepped groceries from trunk to table and finally to cupboards and refrigerator. In the midst of my shelving, [my children], Eva and Ethan, burst through the door from swim practice. With water circles about their necks from wet hair, they dumped their bags and rummaged through what was yet unpacked. "Yuck—I hate olives!" "Yes! Fruit roll-ups!" "Can we have this pasta tonight?"

I smiled, reached my hand out and wiped away a streamlet of pool water from Eva's face. I turned and flicked Ethan's hair from its stiff, matted mess into some sense of order. I pictured the touch of the mothers I'd witnessed in my grocery store journey, and I knew then that I feed my children with more than groceries. My touch, laced through the routines and crises, too, is what makes a difference today for tomorrow.

Yes, I tell them to offer kindness to those around them and to avoid drugs and premarital sex and violence. I teach biblical truths of forgiveness when they mess up and of truthfulness when they'd rather lie. I outline the basics of how to get along in life by managing an allowance, making their beds and getting their homework done before they relax.

But there is more to mothering and more to discipling than telling and teaching and outlining. There is touch.

The nurture of appropriate touch reaches out and over words and wraps a child in a comforter of conviction that he or she is valued—no matter what.

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