When a Handshake Becomes a Hug

I’m approaching my one-month anniversary of moving to Asheville and manning my very own dwelling place, and I’m slowly figuring it all out, from living room arrangements to cooking my own meals. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to hang things on walls without puncturing said walls, per my lease, but maybe one day I’ll learn.

RIP my majestic #RunningTo map that crashed to the ground after just two hours airborne.

Maps need homes, too. #RunningTo #TomDoesHomeyThings #redcouch #coffeetable #whoamirightnow

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My new job is still in the “training” stage after nearly a month, and I’ll admit growing weary by this long readying process. Our new building has passed all inspections, I think we’ve acquired all necessary certifications, and I hope our organization is good to go with our first batch of students soon.

We’re all itching to get started.

This has always been the hardest part of my jobs — the preparatory dark before the dawn. There’s the initial thrill of something new, something foreign that I’m not expected to fully “get” right away, the tasting and testing — and then the inevitable drag of not getting on with it already as the shiny thrill wears off.

Still, I’m striving to live in the purpose of the necessary here and now. I’m reminded of a story told a couple weeks ago during a training session.

A man approached three workers and asked each what he was doing.

“I’m hammering these beams together,” one said.

“I’m making a living,” another said.

“I’m building a cathedral,” the last worker said, stained glass glimmering overhead.

There are lots of ways of looking at mundane, seemingly trivial tasks. Painting walls. Organizing furniture. Cleaning windows — oh gosh, cleaning windows.

There are times when I feel as if I’m merely hammering something together for some unknowable reason. Other times I remember my budget spreadsheet and admit I am mainly here today to forge a living.

And while both reasons may be true, I also want to keep the biggest picture my foremost reason for doing anything in life, even beyond this job.

I am here to build something. I am always building something. A school for boys in substance abuse recovery, a cathedral beyond my wildest imagination.

This weekend, I hosted two more Couchsurfers — the man who first hosted me in Chicago along with his Northern Irish Couchsurfing friend who happens to be on this side of the Atlantic for a bit. It was a poetic blend of the old and new, a dash of the past and a future unfolding before our eyes.

We enjoyed many laughs and deep conversations alike about traveling, church, Donald Trump, and food. My old Chicago friend even cooked us dinner Saturday night, and I took lots of mental notes. I may even be able to recreate his pasta with meat-and-veggies sauce all by myself someday.

I drove my two esteemed guests along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a few hours, the longest I’ve ever wandered this national treasure in my new backyard. We went hiking and waterfall-hunting, and it was thrilling and refreshing beyond words. That I was able to share such a venture with two people who had never been here and seen such sights before, including this new surfer-turned-friend from across the Pond, made it all the more special.

When my UK Couchsurfer discovers the blue in Blue Ridge. #Couchsurfing #blueridge #blueridgeparkway #millsriver

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We parted ways after church on Easter morning, the three of us. What started as a handshake two days ago with this Northern Irish guy turned into a warm embrace goodbye. As soon as I turned around, maybe never to see him again, I marveled at this reality I lived time and time again on my road trip:

A handshake after the front door opens.

A hug before you step back through it.

It’s relationship, and it happens and laughs and inspires and grows whether from one day to two or one year to the rest of our lives.

I want to start a handshake-person who turns over and over into a hugging-person the more my front door opens and closes.

The offer still stands, dear reader — come visit, and let’s shake hands.

And then let’s hug.

  • Phil Hoover

    Such an amazing weekend with two amazing friends/family. Thank you for sharing the most powerful weekend of the year (in my spiritual life) with Neil and myself. I eagerly anticipate my return visit to your place in Asheville, and issue you an open invitation to southeastern Tennessee.

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  • Phil Hoover

    I hope you are having the TIME OF YOUR LIFE hosting couchsurfers….and you’ll be a magnificent host…