“The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.” (Acts 28:2, NLT)
While driving down the road — whether in his car or in his ice cream delivery truck — my paternal grandfather gave the finger to every other driver he met.
Down South, we pride ourselves on friendliness. Some parts appear friendlier than others. During a certain time of the year in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, everyone I pass who is out in their yard is waving frantically. (In reality, they probably aren’t any friendlier than those in the Upstate. They’re just shooing away gnats.) I’ve had the privilege of talking with a number of people who have moved from other regions of the United States and had them tell me how friendly we are — a welcome relief since Southerners aren’t always seen in the best of light.
My granddaddy fell under the category of friendly. For more than 40 years, he drove an ice truck first, then a milk truck, and finally an ice cream truck. When I was old enough, I spent the entire summer helping him deliver ice cream. Every vehicle he met coming down the road, he gave a finger to. Not the middle finger, but the index finger.
You see, in the South, that’s the finger we give. Rarely do we throw up a hand; we merely lift one finger. Before I knew any better, I often wondered how my granddaddy knew so many people. Then I discovered he hardly knew any of the people he fingered. He was simply being friendly and living out what he had learned from residing in the South and from being brought up in a church where friendliness was taught as a worthy virtue to cultivate.
The apostle Paul — and those on the ship with him — encountered friendliness after their ship ran aground. He was on his way to Rome to stand trial for his faith in Christ. While on this unexpected stopover, he and the crew encountered friendly islanders who gave them a finger. In return, Paul showed them a finger by healing the chief official’s father. Imagine that, an island full of finger givers.
Friendliness is not genetic, but it is learned and free. If we want friends, we have to be one. Coming from an environment where anger and rudeness was the norm is no excuse to act the same way. When we accept Christ as our Savior, God considers us not only His children but also His friends.
Since God accepts us as friends, He expects us to return the favor. While having more than a few good friends in a lifetime is rare, I can show a finger of friendliness to everyone I meet — even my enemies. And since Jesus said I was to love my enemies, I have no excuse not to give them the finger of friendliness.
Giving the finger of friendliness isn’t always convenient — it is often time-consuming, but you’ll never go wrong with friendly behavior. And when you’re friendly to others, they’re more likely to return the favor — making this world a better place to live.
Ask God to help you give a finger to the people in your path. He’ll be glad to oblige you with numerous opportunities.
Martin lives in Greenwood and is the founder of Love Lines from God (lovelinesfromgod.com). He has authored “Grits & Grace & God,” and “Grits, Gumbo and Going to Church.” He serves as managing editor for Christian Devotions, assistant editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and pastor of New Life Pentecostal Holiness Church in Hodges. He and his wife are parents of two and grandparents of three. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.