Friday, February 18, 2011

Touch Someone Today! Hugs Could Heal the World!

Leo Buscaglia said, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

Since moving to Florida I haven't entered into the community on a one-on-one relationship. I skim along the surface without getting involved with anything but my day to day life. I float through a sea of faces and no longer look to search for someone I know -- there is no one. They all live in another place, it seems like they live in another time as well. Detached, I think I'm unemcumbered by others' expectations and demands. It is a kind of freedom. I tell myself this over and over, and then that thought creeps in "No man is an island."

After a half-decade I now see familiar faces behind the counters at the local grocery. I don't know their names, except for one woman, about my own age, who works there carrying out groceries. We exchanged first names. Connie.

Last year, about this time, she helped me get groceries to the car and she asked the usual polite questions. It just so happens that at that moment I didn't know if my husband would live or die and her kind inquiries loosened my grip on a flood of tears. Without hesitation she pulled me into a hug. I could smell her perfume on my shirt for the rest of the day. It reminded me that we don't really need to know each other to care. And it amazed me at how deeply her simple act of kindness touched me.

Yesterday Connie, who I hadn't seen for awhile, helped me with my groceries. We both were having a better time of it. Her husband had had successful surgery and mine was doing great. We shared a hug and much to my surprise the tears sprang to my eyes. I may be free and unfettered as I skim through the community, but I'm also giving up hugs, smiles, handshakes, and encouraging and caring gestures. Just being touched brought such a deeply emotional reaction, that I was shaken even after arriving home. Even after putting the groceries away. Even now, a day later.

I wonder about people who live alone, or are in nursing homes or haven't been touched for years. What would happen if someone hugged them? We watch animals and see that they require contact with their fellow pack mates. Our cats snuggle, pat each other, wash each other. They know the need for touch. This website can tell you more about hugs.

That touch or my reaction to it, showed me just how I spend my days. Most of the time I hide behind shields or have my armor in place. I'm courteous, thoughtful, polite, but distant. Most of us, sadly, are comfortable with this kind of public behavior.
Recently while watching the events unfold in Egypt, I was drawn to the way the people touched each other. A hand on a shoulder, a hug, a slap on the back. Some carried the wounded or hurt in their arms. It didn't seem to matter if they knew each other or not. Their humanity connected them.

They also worked together, set up areas of need -- clinic, food, latrine, and 'safe zones' where people could go to rest and rejuvenate. Whoever organized these rallies of hundreds of thousands of people took into consideration the human needs. We often forget that we have such needs.

That hug yesterday was a most welcome act of kindness. I wish I were a hugger, but it isn't 'natural' to me, except with my closest family members. My kids tease me that I'm a tree hugger. Well, maybe it is time to expand my range of hugs to include some others, like me, who need to be reminded that someone still cares. Still sees them. Heaven knows we need some more positive things, need to see our leaders being better people, more compassionate, more responsible, more involved in elevating all mankind, not just those who can reward them. Maybe you and I must set the example for them.
Charles Kuralt, known for his years with the TV program "On the Road with Charles Kuralt" believes that "The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines." I want to believe that he is right.