When I opened the door to my brother’s house and walked inside, my 1-year-old nephew, (“KK” as he has been affectionately nicknamed) started to cry and ran straight to me.

He threw his arms around my legs, as I quickly swept him up for a giant hug. For the next hour, he did not leave my side.

We sat on the couch as he lay his sweaty little head on my shoulder, his fists tightly clenching my shirt. In the security of our embrace, he napped off and on for all that time.

When he finally decided to wiggle away from me, we spent the rest of the day playing with toys and learning things his parents did not want him to learn, like there is no such thing as too many cookies. That’s what uncles are for, right?

As we drove back home later that afternoon, I kept thinking about KK’s reaction to my arrival.

Since the pandemic started in March, we have not seen him much. To be honest, we have not seen much of anyone in person. We did care for him a few days not too long ago, as his parents gave birth to his little brother. It was a wonderful time as we bonded over cookies and goldfish.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has kept us separated for six months now, a time when little nephews and nieces need their aunts and uncles. They need us to wrestle on the floor, play dress up and share funny stories about their parents. The pandemic has taken away all those memories we should have been creating.

Reflecting back to the weekend and my interaction with KK, the memory of that hug will not soon go away. The feeling of his little hands holding mine. The comfort of his embrace as his head rested on my shoulder. The sounds that only a 1-year-old can make when dreaming of butterflies and rainbows.

What I realized driving back from my brother’s house was that I was actually clinging to my nephew instead of the other way around. Sure, he needed his uncle, but his uncle needed that hug more than life itself.

Clinging to KK that day, I realized I was holding on to something else besides him; I grasped for a more innocent time.

I searched for a day when viruses could be treated through vaccines, and we could spend time together again.

I clutched to the realization that race should never be a factor in being kind and compassionate because a child’s love knows no such boundary.

I stared into his little sleeping face, knowing that his eyes and ears were not yet exposed to the harsh, painful realities of the world. My nephew knows nothing of elections or candidates. He just knows love and the opposite of love.

Holding KK in my arms, I quickly realized something unexpected. I was not holding him. He was holding me.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

We’ve all been struggling recently. The pandemic rages onward with more and more infections and deaths reported. It grows frustrating when we see others – especially leaders – thwarting precautions as more than 200,000 people have died in this country alone, and millions more are infected and affected in countless ways.

Even as cries for racial justice continue, even more Black men and women are shot and killed by police.

And, we grow so very weary of the vile politics and divisive elections we all endure. Politics feels more like an Orwellian novel than a healthy democracy debating ideas to move the country forward. May there be an end to this divisiveness.

All of this is very exhausting.

I did not realize how tired and exhausted I was until I felt the small embrace of my nephew. With his hug, I regained my strength to move forward.

We all need to find someone that gives us strength. We all need a moment to escape the noise of this world in order to rock a child to sleep or play on the floor. We all need to find someone when we are weak, so they can be strong for us.

Maybe this is what the Apostle was referring to when he wrote the Christians in Corinthians. We all need someone in our lives that provides comfort, peace and strength during trying times.

Our faith in Jesus will always sustain us, but there are moments when the Spirit of God moves through those around us – even the littlest among us. The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

During this pandemic, for me, the hands and feet of Jesus are those of my young nephew. While the darkness of the world pulls me down, his smile and giggles lift me up. His embrace fuels my heart and mind, sending me back into the world recommitted to fight for a hopeful future – his future.

May each of you find the hug you need, even if you don’t realize you need it.

Those small hugs can change everything.

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