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I remember standing as a young boy on the second step of my grandparents two story house. I was attempting to pull my tie a little tighter hoping it would hold my perfectly parted hair and an army of tears in their rightful place. My great grandfather had just died and it was time to attend his funeral. I remember seeing my dad standing beside the staircase adjusting his tie and his thoughts. In a somewhat falling motion, I entered my dad’s arms from that second step uttering the question, “why did great pop-pop have to die?”

My dad was often quiet. In those days he was rarely emotional. He knew how to suppress the tears and wipe his face clean of feeling. He had his own son convinced that that day was just like any other – except I was wearing a suit and it wasn’t even Sunday. The truth is I don’t remember dad’s answer to my question, “why.” I don’t remember if it was enlightening, inspiring or just classic condolence card. I don’t think it matters. What I really needed at that moment was an embrace. When I look back at this situation through my adult eyes, I see something more. My dad needed that embrace, too.

Every person at some point or another will be confronted with the question “why” and its bulky emotional luggage. We might try to tie it in place with bow ties or neck ties or through severing relational ties. Wouldn’t it be nice in those moments to experience an embrace?

The problem is that when faced with another person’s hurt and pain those that could embrace run away. An antonym for EMBRACE is EXCLUDE. Too often we exclude those that are hurting, or we exclude the topic from conversation. We cross our arms and refuse to embrace. Are we afraid the pain will rub off on us? Are we afraid that we don’t have the right words to share?

When investing in people, it is crucial that we learn to embrace them in their moments of pain and not only in their moments of success. We don’t always need the correct words. We don’t always need answers. Sometimes, an embrace is most appropriate.