The Power of Simple Touch


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.

15 Responses to The Power of Simple Touch
  1. Matt
    March 17, 2015 | 7:07 am

    Is there anything that coconut oil doesn’t do? Seems to be this decade’s panacea! It just made me think that one year coffee over caffeinates the system, the next year you should drink 4 cups a day to live forever. Fat – avoid! Fat – eat! Carbs – great! Carbs – devil! But human touch and human interaction – those are constants that seem to stand the test of time.

  2. Pam Anderson
    March 17, 2015 | 9:02 am

    At the other end of life, my mother who is on hospice and in the final stages of life had never had a massage-always refused them. A month or so ago,something made me ask if she wanted one. While she didn’t say yes, she didn’t say no either, so I hired a massage therapist to give her one. She’s lost interest and pleasure in everything, but she loved the touch.

    • David Anderson
      March 17, 2015 | 9:05 am

      Yes, the issues at both ends of life are pretty much the same, aren’t they?

  3. claark s johnson
    March 17, 2015 | 10:47 am

    So basic, it seems,yet advise from all sides causes us to hold back on natural impulses such as this. The story is so moving and we seem to see a lot of our parish who do hug each other as good friends do! Thanks

  4. Michael
    March 17, 2015 | 11:35 am

    Yes at both ends of life we need touch. Pam, what a beautiful gift to Dash and a wise gift to your mother!

  5. Gloria Hayes
    March 17, 2015 | 12:10 pm

    This has brought me to tears at noon on a Tuesday. How beautifully expressed. The love of family. So very precious. Thank you David and Pam. I am living the same dream every day. Never, ever tire of those precious little people. Gloria Hayes

  6. Marilyn Topar
    March 17, 2015 | 12:59 pm

    Beautiful, David – one of your best – thanks for sharing!

  7. Joe Rutledge
    March 17, 2015 | 1:46 pm

    I want to go to your church! Alas, I live in MN so I will settle for your great blog posts (and books).

  8. Angie
    March 17, 2015 | 2:27 pm

    Reading this gave me goosebumps. A lovely reminder of the gift of touch.

  9. Kathy
    March 17, 2015 | 4:33 pm

    What a beautiful message, David. Yes, the older I get, the more I see that it is the simple things that are the most meaningful. Thank you for the reminder. We do need to be reminded.

  10. Sandy Oldfield
    March 17, 2015 | 4:55 pm

    So true and simple. As I have witnessed so many times in the hospital, a touch and a smile are the most healing treatments! I’m so glad for you to have Dash in your lives but sorry Pam is losing her mom. Funny how life balances itself….

  11. Margaret Anderson
    March 17, 2015 | 9:07 pm

    Thanks David! Grateful to be one of your “hug recipients” What a beautiful gift! Truly healing!.

  12. Nancy
    March 17, 2015 | 9:12 pm

    This is a beautiful testament to the healing, loving gift of touch we all have the ability to share. I, too, see the miracle a hug or simple touch can be so healing in a hospital or nursing home setting. But, a baby, that is just about the most beautiful sharing I’ve heard in a long time. Viva Pam and David

  13. Jen
    March 19, 2015 | 11:39 am

    I have been waiting for Dash to make an appearance on Finding Your Soul!!! Love this message.

  14. Ellie Massie
    March 21, 2015 | 4:04 pm

    Needless to say, I loved that! Please keep sending me your blog. Somehow I have lost it.

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