“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey."
Today, as I was driving down the freeway, I looked over at the car I was passing and witnessed the driver, a young man, reaching over to the passenger side and stroking the back of his hand alongside the cheek of the woman with him. They were driving a rusted out old car, filled to the brim with camping supplies along with two kayaks perched precariously on the roof. They didn't look like they had much, but they sure looked like they had love. How did I know? The soft, gentle stroke of his hand on her cheek reflected the love that was in his heart. The look on her face as she leaned into that touch also spoke of her love for him.
It reminded me of a scene my husband and I witnessed as we were out for an afternoon walk a few years ago. We were strolling along the main street in our small town just enjoying the sunny day. As we approached an older couple we watched him help her from her walker to the passenger side of the van. He had already opened her door and now gently supported her as she made her way into her seat. It took a bit for her to get in and settle but as soon as she did she too reached out her hand and put it gently against the cheek of her husband and with a gentle smile on her face whispered, "Thanks!". It all happened in a few seconds but it touched our hearts and when we speak of it now we both have a clear picture in our heads of that brief, loving exchange. The image still brings tears to my eyes.
When you live in a large, loving family you don't really think that much about touch. However, I just spent two weeks away from my family and one of the things I missed the most was their touch. The feel of their hand against my shoulder or their arms wrapped around me hugging me hello or good-bye or perhaps, just hugging me 'because'. With two new babies in our family there is no shortage of snuggling and really, there is no other touch in the world that compares with a warm baby curled up and fast asleep against your chest, especially a newborn. But these aren't the only ways we touch. Think of the many ways you and your loved ones touch. My husband and I love to snuggle up as we watch television. We sometimes dance in the kitchen. We hold hands when we walk. When I am feeling stressed (which is less and less these days) I simply put my hand up against the back of his shoulder and I can literally feel the tension drain from my body. Touching is a part of each and every day for us and for our family.
Our two older grandchildren love to wrestle and trust me, this involves a lot of touching . . . and giggling. . . and laughing. . . and lots and lots of crazy names (chest thumper, arm thwacker etc. - which are really more harmless then they sound!). We read a lot of books in our family and this always involves snuggling. In fact, research shows that the physical interaction that happens during reading is more important than the actual physical exposure to the words.
When I got home from my trip I had mentioned to my family how much I had missed their touch. My two youngest daughters told me that they had just been talking about this the week before. They had been out for a walk together with their babies and had passed an old folks home. They discussed whether or not it would be a good idea for them to visit this home with their babies as they both know how much their nanny (91 years old) had enjoyed snuggling the babies on our last visit with her. I thought it was a terrific idea.
While I know it's dangerous territory these days I always touched the students I worked with. A hand on the shoulder or an old-fashioned hug go a long way in making anyone feel better, not just young children.
All of these things happening have made me wonder how starved for touch some people may be in their life and how we, as individuals, can give this small but precious gift to those living without it. What do you think?