"In the absence of touching and being touched, people of all ages can sicken and grow touch starved." – Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of The Senses
I always remember a story Al Franken tells on his radio show about his mom when she was in a nursing home. He didn’t know what he could do for her. He was told just to go be with her. To touch her. So he did, not knowing afterward whether she received as much from it as he did in doing it. I think she did.
We all have an innate need to be touched. Surrogate programs in health care centers, orphanages and group homes worldwide invite people to come in and hold babies, particularly those born to crack-addicted moms, who might not otherwise be given the human contact, or bonding, that is needed. Volunteers are known as "cuddlers." Research shows that we begin bonding with our mother at birth, and that human interaction is a key component of emotional maturity through adulthood.
And yet, that bonding, that connection, is not always strong even when a child has a mom and dad living at home. Some families do not touch. They don’t hug. Many children lack intimate emotional ties to their parents, if they have active, supportive parents at all. And unfortunately, too many children endure inappropriate touching and abuse at the hands of those who brought them into this world.
As a result, programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters exist. They match up young people with adults who want to touch a child in the right way, by spending time with them, by being a heart-felt advocate for them during a time of great instability. They provide a feeling of security, safety. Children who feel insecure, unsafe, may not be able to grow up and mature before falling through the cracks, not protected by a parental safety net that many of us have taken for granted in our lives.
Realize that experience
We all yearn to live in ease, with as little stress as possible, without sickness or disability turning our world upside down. Some of us realize that experience. Many of us don’t. In re-reading a submission turned in this month by Tim Braff and Che’lisa Corey, entitled "Beyond the Consciousness of Healing," I began to wonder if, in fact, they have hit the nail on the head. What if the question is not "How do we heal?" but "How do we live?"
What if, collectively, we did not believe we would get sick? Would we? Like the adage – "If a tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it, does it make a sound?" – perhaps if no one expected to ever get sick, then no one ever would. Quantum physics tells us that results of experience are affected by the observer’s expectations. Can we apply this idea to healing? Do we get sick because we are open to the possibility of it happening? What role does attitude play in us getting sick, or staying well? How many pets live nearly their entire lifespans without major symptoms of disease? How many of them get sick as a result of our expectation?
These are all questions for us to ponder as beings of the 21st century. As we strive to evolve, to realize greater potential, to understand the capabilities of people and seek to eliminate conditions that prevent us from being all that we can be, I suggest we begin with a simple touch.
The other day I rewatched the film Crash, which was a rare box-office success that focused on the shifting of perspective. Film critics were astounded that the public took to this motion picture due to its complex character development. The entire film seems to take place over the course of only several days in Los Angeles, and in every instance, the way each character views the world is profoundly changed as a result of touching other people. That, according to Graham, a police detective with LAPD portrayed by actor Don Cheadle, is something that doesn’t happen. "In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass."
Car crashes do take place. Are they random acts of circumstance? Or are they opportunities we have created on some quantum level to touch another human being in a profound way? I think so.