by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM Ireland 19.10.2022
The other day I was on the phone listening to a woman who was sharing about her present difficulties in an interpersonal relationship. I listened as best as I could, but inside me I knew this woman was strong and was well able to work out the direction to take. What she wanted from me was not advice, but a sense of companionship, of nearness, of having a friend in a time of trouble and doubt.
Inside of me I just wanted to hug her. I couldn’t, of course, because she was at the other end of the phone! But it made me value even more the sense of touch. I think that is why God gave us a physical human body. We need to use it, to reach out and touch people. I began to think about the times in my life when human touch was so important.
It began with my parents, of course. I still remember the sense of safety, security, and warmt h I felt being held by my father. He did a lot of my “mothering”! But it continued up through my awkward teenage years, first flirts, student life and then learning in my nursing training about the importance and reverence of touch in dealing with patients.
It is only recently that I have begun to value that touch, itself, has a healing quality. We can convey feelings and emotions through a hug, a stroke of the hand, even a handshake. The other side of the coin is that physical touch can also be negative as in domestic violence. Sometimes we are so aware of that, that we can forget the simplicity of touch. And, of course, touch needs to be consensual and between adults. We need to protect our children from negative experiences of touch.
But coming back to the positive side for a moment. Who does not remember being welcomed somewhere with a big hug? Or congratulated on passing an exam or reaching some other milestone? A hug can convey so much more than words or speeches. I was lucky enough in my life to be assigned to Brazil where human touch is valued and normal. Both men and women will greet with a kiss on both cheeks. Children will come and climb on top of you if you let them.
So today I am just so grateful to God for the sense of touch. The next person I meet on the corridor – look out – a hug is coming!