It happens this way …
One of my fondest high school memories took place at a basketball game. Our girls’ team at St. Mary’s in Perth Amboy, N.J. had a perfect record my senior year: 10 losses. I was sitting dejectedly on the bench during another blow-out when Sister Dismas, our faculty advisor, came over and put her hand on my back. She didn’t say a word; she just transferred a caring message through her touch that I still remember decades later.
When I saw her ten years ago and shared that memory, she smiled and said she learned that from her father. He would ask her, “Are you touching your students? They need your touch.”
Oh, for those days when an innocent touch could speak volumes about caring and support! (I’m not going to address all the scandals in the Church and all the abuse that goes on everyday, everywhere. You and I know all about that – and how sad for all of the children who could be comforted by a healing touch.)
Two weeks ago I had coffee with a new friend, a woman from Brazil who is studying to become a therapist specializing in suicide prevention. She told me suicide is an epidemic among young people in the US.
We sat in a Peets’ coffee shop and shared our lives. Every once and a while, she’d reach over the small table to touch my hand. I’m sure her gestures were unconscious, but I was very aware of them. Some were exclamation points, some were ellipses, some were periods in our conversation. Each one was a touch of empathy and intimacy.
As a management trainer traveling the country for 19 years, I would ask approachable audience members if they wanted to share a hug. I’m a Baby Boomer, I’d say, and we Boomers hug. Never once did someone refuse.
For those who know me, hugs are a natural part of our greeting. For those who don’t, if we ever meet I’ll ask your permission and we’ll share a few seconds of human contact that will be safe and comforting. Perhaps we’ll grieve together for all the children who no longer trust an adult to put her hand on their backs and offer consolation. One healing gesture could make any losing season more bearable.