Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth – 1 John 3:18-19
Two years ago my birthday fell on a Sunday. Rebekah must have mentioned something about it because right after church I was straight-up tackled by one of our teens. She was one of those youth who just shines with authentic light. She didn’t even hesitate a little bit, she grabbed me and she hugged me.
She didn’t offer a wimpy, tentative side-arm hug. And she didn’t waste time with one of those “keep a safe distance” bro-hugs either. She threw her arms around my neck – which was a stretch because she was not exactly tall – and I was flat-out hugged like this hugging stuff is serious business.
“Happy birthday!” she said. “When I found out today was your birthday I just had to hug you. I’m Hannah and we are birthday twins!”
How cool was that? How cool is that! What a beautiful memory.
What makes this so important is that Hannah didn’t waste time. She was overflowing with life and light, she knew intuitively that God’s love is something that grows and multiplies when we give it away, and she got on with it. Carpe diem. I am thankful that she did because, sadly, we didn’t get to be birthday twins again. Almost a year later – in February of 2018 – Hannah died in a tragic auto accident (see Tragedy, Pain, and the Beauty of Love – the evening 500 teens showed up at our church…). She would have been 17 today.
I’m sharing this for several reasons:
- Hannah really did have an impact on me, and I will always be grateful for my birthday hug.
- We must not avoid talking about stories because they are hard – but instead share them exactly because they are hard. Painful, poignant memories both affirm the good that was and give more life to today.
- Stories like this are an inspiration. Hannah hugged me without hesitation and she enriched my life in a special way that I would have missed if she had not responded to what I know to be a prompting from God.
Loving people that way, the way Hannah loved, with such enthusiasm and so unequivocally, is most definitely the work of God.
So I am sharing this memory because Hannah still makes me smile. Thousands of people are continually being touched by the “Hug-a-Day” initiative she set in motion.
Life is difficult, that is a given. Love is stronger, that is absolute truth.
So, “Happy birthday to me…” I am grateful for all the light and love and promise and grace that constantly define the life I am privileged to enjoy.
Do me a favor, would you? Keep the hugs going. Hug some people today in my honor – and in Hannah’s too.
In love, and because of love – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.