By Rajmund Dabrowski — In the era of social distancing, we are encouraged, even regulated, to keep our distance in social gatherings. Going back to the days when we were meeting left and right and enjoying each other’s company, we travelled in busses, trains or trams, packed to the rim. We went to camp meetings, church worships and other events or concerts, and sat next to each other.

I also remember print newspapers, which now are replaced by their digital versions. While in Washington, D.C., I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Washington Post.

One day, a picture caught my attention–an evening scene with a man kissing a woman’s hand. She was full of happy laughter. The caption was not an example of imagination nor erudition. It said, “Ron Miller, aka the Compliment Man, kisses the hand of Lyn…”

The story caught my attention. It reminded me of days when men let women go through doors first; when women would be served first at a dinner table; when they would be offered seats on a crowded bus or metro car.

Ron Miller, who then was 36, had a story to tell. He was known as the Compliment Man and spent years walking Washington’s 18th Street “offering rapid-fire flattery for masses,” as the Post reported.

A description of Ron’s vocation made me stop and read again: “He works a crowd like an evangelical minister, pacing the sidewalk, waving, trying hard not to let a young lady go without hearing she’s got on one smart outfit.” The locals know him well. Those who watch him work the street testify that it would be hard to dispute his presence, considering the traffic jams he creates.

“Drivers stop to wave and call out his name. Women converge on him two or three at a time, waiting for a greeting or, in many cases, a kiss on the hand.”

Panhandler, you say. Well… Ron spends many hours making people feel better and happier, and he doesn’t ask for money. He is employed and has time to volunteer at a local church. The Post again, “Miller insists he wants only ‘to meet and greet’ — his way of paying back to the community that supported him when he was broke and jobless several years ago.”

The Compliment Man. A hand-kissing-icon. A man who is paying back in kisses and smiles because someone cared for him.

This reminder makes me pause today and review my own compliment routine. Let’s consider a practice route first — a spouse, a daughter, a secretary.

The other day someone commented: “Ray, you are such a European!” Yes, I am, of course. For in Europe, we still greet women by kissing their hands, though such a custom is slowly disappearing there also.

This might not be a big deal, but at least it makes our ives more pleasant to negotiate.

Taking Scriptures as a guide, we can easily interpret the Pauline admonition: “Build each other up,” we read in 1 Thess. 4:11 [NIV]. Our homes, churches, and communities will be well served, will become kinder, and we might even find a way to make our social distancing more bearable.

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of NewsNuggets.