The Human Touch
’Tis the human touch
in this world that counts,
The touch of your hand and mine,
Which means far more
to the fainting heart
Than shelter and bread and wine.
For shelter is gone
when the night is o’er,
And bread lasts only a day.
But the touch of the hand
And the sound of the voice
Sing on in the soul always.
– Spencer Michael Free
The inability to hug each other must be the most de-humanizing caution of this pandemic. So says absolutely every person I’ve met with in the past months: “I hate it that we can’t hug!” Forget masks. Nothing is more dissatisfying than a virtual hug.
I skimmed Bible sites for thoughts on touch, but most quotes emphasize what not to touch. (Much like my high school teachers told us.) When a woman touched Jesus’ cloak, he felt power go out of him.
My birth family was loving, yet fairly anti-touch. One showed respect for another person by keeping a distance. Only in retrospect did I realize I had absorbed the unspoken rules concerning what distance was appropriate for approaching which category of person: aunt, cousin, friend, best friend, next door neighbor, neighbor two-doors down, unknown relative at a funeral, unknown relative at a wedding, shoe clerk, relative who married someone questionable. We practiced a refined culture of social distancing long before it became “a covid thing.”
Then I went to a college with Jewish students. Everybody was touching everybody. People I didn’t know, wasn’t related to in any way, hugged me. I was frozen in shock for at least one semester. I did manage to hug someone back before graduation.
Now I understand why there are more “Don’t Touch” warnings in the Bible, and not so many “Okay to Touch.” There are Biblical warnings about not touching because the people who wrote it were touching everything all the time! No encouragement needed.
So my life-long ease into the wonders of touching continues. Now I’d say that the power generated from a good solid hug, or back rub, or handing hands, is necessary for physical, mental, spiritual health. I’m guessing that is why we are covered, head to foot, with the sense of touch. Greeting each other from a distance is bad, but not hugging? How can we possibly keep our humanity?
Touch with our eyes. Look deep.
Touch with our voices. Speak gently.
Touch with our sense of smell. Breathe in deeply.
Touch with our ears. Listen carefully to each other. To birds, To music, To silence.
Touch with prayer.