As I write this we are in the midst of sheltering in place. Because of the coronavirus and COVID-19 much of America and the world has been shutdown. Social distancing. No handshakes. No play ground time for children as playgrounds are off limits. Schools are closed. Restaurant, coffee shops (even bars which doesn’t bother me any!) are closed. Coffee shops closed (now that’s BAD news!) except for drive through.
This week Ronn and I called an elderly widowed friend who lives alone in a retirement community. She cannot have her family or friends visit. Her meals are delivered by the retirement kitchen once a day. She can walk her little dog twice a day around the green belt and walk to get her mail. Other than that she is alone in her apartment … thank God she has Jesus as her constant companion.
Our friend is over 90, alone and missing the hugs her family can give her. Another friend’s mother, also over 90, just passed away this morning (not related to COVID-19) but this friend was able to be with her mother in her convalescent home because she was part of her care team and was able to stay with her. This lady was able to enjoy the touch of her daughter.
My own brother is in a retirement home as is his mother-in-law who just celebrated her 104th birthday this week and my sister-in-law cannot physically visit either one of them, hug or touch them!
So it got me to thinking how important “touch” is. I remember years ago reading an article about children being raised in a Romanian orphanage and laying in their cribs for months on end without anyone to hold them and the devastation it caused to their mental and physical growth. It changed their brain composition.
I found on the internet that physical touch is known to improve the function of your immune system and also can reduce diseases such as those associated with the heart and blood.
Some psychologists term “skin hunger” (or called touch hunger) is a need for physical human contact. Touch can communicate a range of emotions, serving as an important social tool, and even the act of hugging can reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Touch can also bring comfort or show empathy, can influence our thought processes, reactions and even our physiological responses.
What is “touch starved”? This is not an often thought of “starvation”. We humans are wired to be touched. From birth until the day we die, our need for physical contact will remain. Being touch starved (or touch deprived) occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living humans. Babies who are not held, cuddled, and hugged enough can stop growing, and if the situation doesn’t change, even die.
Any and all positive touch is considered to be beneficial. Losing out on workplace handshakes, friendly hugs, or pats on the back can result in feelings of touch starvation … what will the outcome of this social distancing be to us as people?
Jesus knew the importance of touch …
(1) Mark 8:25, “He (Jesus) put His hands on his (the blind man) eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.”
(2) In Mark 10 Jesus took the little children in His arms, laid His hands on them and blessed them.
(3) Matthew 8:3, Jesus touched a leper, one that no one was allowed to touch … “Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him … immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
(4) Jesus touched Peter’s mother-in-law and her fever left. Matthew 8:15.
(5) I like this one because it speaks to us and what we are facing today … Matthew 17:6 & 7. Jesus was ready to be lifted up into heaven and three of the disciples were with Him. A bright cloud appeared, a voice came out of the cloud, scared the disciples and they fell to the ground greatly afraid. Verse 7, “But Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.” I feel Jesus saying to us today … DO NOT BE AFRAID!
I will make a confession here … Ronn’s mother lived with us for almost 40 years. (Now that is a story for another time and place!!). At times we had a difficult relationship and it was hard for me to hug her or show affection (but I was always kind!). I knew it was important as she was a widow and the kids and Ronn would hug her but it was hard for me to hug her … not others. I had to make it a matter of prayer and finally was able to do so. In her last months of life it was a natural thing to do.
So what am I saying in all this? This time of confinement, isolation, sheltering and whatever else we want to call it … will come to an end. Life will be different but will we? I’ve heard that perhaps hand-shaking will be frowned upon. That’s sad. A handshake used to be as good as a contract. Will we stop hugging friends? Will we continue to stand six feet away? I hope not! Will we be more cautious with our coughing and sneezing? I hope so! Will we throw our tissues away? Better do so!
Let us do as Jesus did … touch those that need the touch of Jesus!
I love the words to a couple songs …
“Oh the touch of His hand on mine
Oh the touch of His hand on mine,
There is peace and joy
In this trying hour
Oh the touch of His hand on mine”
“Because He touched me, I now touch you
And in the name of Him who came to make you whole,
If you believe, you shall receive
Complete deliverance for your body and your soul