I remember watching a television special many moons ago where Diana Ross premiered her song “Reach Out and Touch.”

“Reach out and touch somebody’s hand.
Make this world a better place if you can…”

I liked it instantly. I still do. It was catchy and made me feel good, like I wanted to just hug everybody. Lately, however, the song has taken on a new meaning for me. I never cease to be amazed by the fact that the more ways as we develop to connect to one another, the more disconnected we become. It boggles my mind that a girlfriend would text to me that she is having surgery the next day as opposed to calling so we could actually talk about it and maybe even pray.

It’s true that social networking sites have become the quickest and easiest way to disseminate information to the largest number of people at one time, and I get that that can be a good thing. I guess my issue is that we seem to be losing the ability to relate to one another in person. Social networking sites, IMs, emails and text messages provide a safety barrier so that we can be involved in people’s lives without really being involved. Can I just be honest and tell you that was the main reason I avoid going the dating site route. I know every case is different, in fact, some of my best friends are dating site couples, but for me I always felt like it was cultivating a virtual relationship because people can tell you whatever they want over the internet (I have friends that have been victims of that as well).

What can I say? I’m old school. I like hand signed cards and envelopes and long letters via snail mail. I like hearing your voice and you laugh. I love seeing your face when we talk, learning your facial expressions and what they mean. I like sharing a joke with a stranger in the grocery store or speaking to people as I pass them on the street – you know the stuff that only comes with real human contact. I remember laughing once at my mom for being the only one I knew who still went into the bank branch and talked to the tellers, but I understand now. They know her there. In fact when she fell last year and I went to make a deposit for her, there were all eyeballing me because they knew I wasn’t my mom, and when I told them why I was there instead of her, they asked me to pass on to her that they all wished her well. I like that!

Here’s the thing though, how about human relationships are what the gospel is all about?! First we get into relationship with Jesus then that relationship affects our relationships with the people around us. Jesus could have sent healing words to Peter’s mother in law over the net if it was available then, and they would have been just as powerful, but the human contact was important. She needed His touch and she needed to be able to demonstrate her gratitude by serving Him. The woman with the issue of blood, the 10 lepers, the blind man at the side of the road needed personal contact with Jesus, and as a result they knew Him in a way that the other people around them did not.

I saw the ambulance in front of a neighbor’s house yesterday as I was leaving for church. I thought about them all through service and felt a strong need to stop by on the way home, even though I don’t know them, to see if they needed anything. I thought about how many times the ambulance was at our front door when dad was alive; how stressful it was to spend hours in the ER waiting; and then trying to think about coming home and cooking or anything. With that in mind I acted on impulse and stopped by. I’ve never paid attention to the house before, but now that I was up close I could see what bad shape it was in. The blinds were broken, the curtains were yellowed, the yard was covered in leaves, the roof and windows were in need of repair. It showed all the signs of a place where hope had been lost. I rang the doorbell and waited. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the look on the face of the man who answered the door, the way he pulled the screen door in further, about broke my heart. I told him who I was and why I had stopped by, he gruffly told me that everything was fine and that they didn’t need anything, then he thanked me for my concern and closed the door and that was that.

My first impulse was to beat myself up about how things went but before I could put the gloves on God reminded me that I am in a battle against culture and society where no one knows their neighbors; where we are leery; suspicious and fearful of strangers often because we have to be; where independence and self reliance are the mark of success while interdependence is equated to weakness; where reaching out to someone we don’t know is the exception not the rule.

It would seem that while I’ve been living inside a Norman Rockwell painting for the past thirty years, the world has changed. I’m left with choices… So, do I let it depress me? Do I conform and allow it to change who I am? OR Do I continue to be different? Do I purposely seek out authentic relationships with the people around me? Do I reach out beyond my circle to the personal touch that so many desperately need? I choose to keep it personal even if it puts me in the minority. What about you? What will you choose?