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ValueSpeak: The greatest thing you’ll ever learn

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Mike was hurting.

No doubt about it. His right foot was aching, way more than usual. It doesn't really matter precisely why his foot was aching — there were an assortment of reasons medical, physiological and athletic. What matters is it was sore.

And Mike was hurting.

“You really need to see the doctor about that foot,” his wife, Linda, told him for about the 43 millionth time.

“He’ll just tell me what he’s told me before: that I need another operation,” Mike said.

“Well, maybe you do,” Linda suggested.

“And maybe they’ll just make it worse, like they did last time,” Mike said. “It’s not worth the risk. I can deal with this.”

And so the discussion ended like it always did: with Linda frustrated because she couldn’t do anything to ease her husband’s obvious pain, and Mike pretending not to limp — or to wince or to moan — as he made his way gingerly to his favorite reclining chair.

He had just settled into the chair and elevated his foot when 3-year-old Caleb came into the room and tried to climb on his father’s lap.

“Ouch!” Mike exclaimed as Caleb’s knee brushed awkwardly against his sore foot. “Careful, buddy! Daddy’s foot has an owie!”

Caleb looked up into his Daddy’s face intently.

“You got owie?” Caleb asked his father.

“Yes, son,” Mike said. “A big owie.”

Without a moment of hesitation, Caleb gave his dad that supremely confident, almost arrogant “I got this” look that boys give their dads when they are absolutely, 100 percent sure that, well, they got this. He slid off his father’s lap and walked directly to his feet, where he bent and planted a soft kiss on Mike’s foot. Mike was so touched by the simple sweetness of the gesture that he didn’t have the heart to tell Caleb that he’d kissed the wrong foot.

“All better, Daddy?” Caleb asked in a tone that suggested he already knew the answer.

“Yes, son,” Mike answered as he gathered his little boy in his arms. “All better.”

In fact, Mike did feel better — and not because there are any magical restorative powers in a child’s kiss on the wrong foot, which we all know isn’t the case.

Or is it?

“The power of love to change bodies is legendary, built into folklore, common sense and everyday experience,” said physician and author Dr. Larry Dossey. “Love moves the flesh, it pushes matter around … Throughout history, ‘tender loving care’ has uniformly been recognized as a valuable element in healing.”

Of course, I’m not trying to say that Mike’s foot was suddenly physically healed by a loving and well-intentioned kiss from his 3-year-old son. But there’s no denying that pure, authentic act of love made Mike feel better. It healed his heart, if not his foot. And for Mike, that night at least, that was enough.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around,” observed author, educator and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia.

Or, as Nat King Cole used to sing in eden ahbez’s “Nature Boy,” “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Even if — or maybe especially if — you’re hurting.

To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com. Twitter: JoeWalkerSr