Weekly Thought – January 16, 2024
Fred learned to hug… no, Fred chose to learn to hug. His thoughts on the importance of physical touch illustrate how a man who grew up in a generation of non-hugging men discovered the power. His grandchildren benefited from the time with a Grandfather who appreciated their warm hugs.
Hugs Are Important
One of my ongoing studies is the subject of therapeutic touch. I have been working on it for several years. I got interested in it because the President of the Sloan-Kettering Institute said to the AMA during an address. “My father was a country doctor. He carried a little black valise. We know today there was not one thing in there that would heal anybody, but people got well, because my Daddy put his hand on them and said, ‘You’re gonna get well.’”
I read of an entire nursing association in New York City practicing therapeutic touch.
I did a telephone Interview for the University of Nebraska. At the time that was an interesting new interview technique. The interviewer is sitting with a large audience at a conference or academic classroom. The hour is spent asking and answering questions. In preparation for this session they sent me the school magazine. Interestingly, there was a poem written by Donna Swanson. It expresses her thoughts about touch and aging. It triggered distinct emotions about her words on the loneliness which accompanies lack of human touch.
When my Mother was 80 years old (she lived to be 93) she began noticeably aging. Her once porcelain smooth skin wrinkled badly and her military-like posture began to slump. It surprised me and also reminded me that one of the negative aspects of aging is the lack of physical touch. By this time my Dad had been gone for over twenty years, her “boys” grew up and moved away, and she lived in an apartment by herself. I finally realized she suffered from the lack of the physical, tactile element in relationships. In her very old-fashioned way she would greet the grandchildren with, “Come give Nanny some sugar!” She wanted to show her love by giving healthy hugs, but it often frightened the little ones.
Studies show the reticence to touch older people is not uncommon. In nursing homes many of the residents will sit for days without visitors and specifically without any touch.
I realized I had quit touching my Mother. Recognizing this, I started hugging her again and it made a big difference… to her and to me.
I was speaking at Barkley Lodge in Kentucky at a Christian meeting. Afterwards a quiet, shy woman stood at the back and waited for me to finish talking with other people. In speaking you always notice those who purposely wait because they usually have to something specific to say. She finally walked up to me. She wasn’t over 5 feet tall, so she looked up at me and said, “Would you hug me?” I said, “You know I will.” I reached out and gave her a great big hug. As she walked off I said to myself “How long has that hug got to last?” I knew the answer – a long time.
This week think carefully about: 1) Who do I need to hug? 2) Why do I think people avoid physical contact with the elderly? 3) How can I become more aware of my own need for a hug?
Words of Wisdom: “I realized I had quit touching my Mother. Recognizing this, I started hugging her again and it made a big difference… to her and to me.”
Wisdom from the Word: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their adversity and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27 NET Bible)