He lay there with only his diaper on, my grandson Dashiell. It was seven o’clock, time for his bedtime rituals. My wife, who adores this eight week-old child, is ready to give Dash his massage.
She dips her hands in coconut oil and begins to stroke his stomach. She rubs his legs and presses her thumbs gently into the bottoms of his tiny feet. More coconut oil. She circles his arms at the shoulders and massages them all the way down to his finger tips. Then she rubs his hands, circling his palms over and over, manipulating his fingers. The boy is in rapture. His mouth drops open, his dark eyes stare as if to say, “Is this real?”
Seeing Dash literally soaked in his grandmother’s love, my eyes mist over. It’s overwhelming to see a creature so tiny and fragile and helpless being so loved, beautiful to see Pam’s near magic powers to give this infant such bliss.
It is hard to believe, but in the early 1900’s the premier pediatrician in America, a man named Dr. Luther Emmett Holt, determined that parents were holding and cuddling their children far too much; they were spoiling them. Parents eager to follow the latest “scientific” guidelines quickly adopted a hands-off parenting style. Within a few years doctors began to notice an alarming rise in infant deaths, especially in otherwise healthy babies. There was no apparent reason for their slinking into torpor and death—it was simply called “failure to thrive.” All because they did not receive enough human touch.
The simple fact is, without being touched we die. Infants literally die from it, but adults also die inside. Just as happens in a heart attack, parts of the heart die and cannot feel anything. Happily, the deadened flesh of this heart can be restored to life again. If we touch people, the old deadness flickers to life.
On Sunday I saw a woman in church, a friend who moved away years ago and was back visiting. I went out at the Peace and gave her a hug, telling her how good it was to see her again. After church she told me of a deep struggle in her life, and how that hug at the Peace was the greatest gift she had received in a long time. It was just a hello hug, I thought. Time and again I am surprised at how the smallest gesture, the simplest touch can bestow life.
We can do this. It costs us nothing. We can put a hand on someone’s shoulder when we say, “How are you?” The touch is what makes the moment beautiful. Rather than just saying, “Good to see you,” we can put an arm around someone and smile as we say those plain old words. Just watch what happens when you do. And for the people God has given us to love, we can hug them and hold their hand or lightly caress their face when we say simple things like, “Good Morning” or “How was your day?” Hearts come back to life.