Hug & Touch

A Touch of Love

by Eric Kreye

Years ago some of England's orphanages ran an experiment. One director made it the duty of the nurses in charge to make sure each baby was held at least 30 minutes a day. Amazingly, as this directive was carried out, many babies and children who were ill made a significant recovery! It was further learned that babies who are not touched get sick and sometimes even die.

Are babies the only ones who benefit so remarkably from touching? Or do we all enjoy being touched and find it wonderful therapy?

One interesting study revealed that waitresses who touch their patrons receive larger tips than those who don't. That study also showed that libraries receive more positive evaluations if patrons are touched when they check out their books.

Are we really so different from people in restaurants and libraries? Most of us must admit that it feels good when someone we admire gives us a hug or a pat on the back. It seems to say, I care about you.

Professionals in the field of medicine know the value of touch. At New York University the therapeutic value of touch is part of their nursing program. One study revealed that 93% of doctors believe that touch helps relieve a patient's fear of treatment.

Professional marriage counselors have discovered that the happiest couples are those who frequently touch each other.

Why is it that we are so hesitant to touch others? Some cultures are more open to giving these expressions of affirmation than others.

Dr. Sidney Jourard made an informal study of this matter of touching. He traveled to different countries and observed common people in coffee shops, to see for himself how people in different cultures related to touch. The idea was to see how many times a given person would touch another in an informal setting.

In Puerto Rico he counted 180 touches an hour between two people. In France it was 110. In the United States only 2. England did even worse--he saw none.

Dr. Sue Pendell, of Colorado State University, made this tongue-in-cheek statement: "We need four hugs a day to stay sane, eight hugs a day to stay healthy, and twelve hugs a day to really grow on."

We might smile at this, but maybe there is a lot of truth in this remark.

Princess Diana of England was loved by many. Newsweek might give us a clue to the reason why. It reported:

" an instinctive toucher, and people love her for it. Whether she's visiting old-age pensioners in a nursing home, children at a school, or the severely disabled in a hospital ward, she will give everyone a pat, a caress, or a handshake--sometimes even a hug."

Diana made people feel special. Those who were thus blessed will never forget that touch of love.

Of course, there is a time to touch and a time not to. Inappropriate touching can be devastating and in unguarded moments some mistakes have been made.

Discretion is needed. The physical touch of those outside the family, no matter how slight, is safest in the presence of other people.

But let's not allow that caution to force us to neglect to share the touch of love, which can bring healing and comfort to those who need it.

Jesus knew the importance of touching and He used it in His contact with people all the time.

Mark 10 records an occasion when "they brought young children to Him, that He might touch them."

In Bible times leprosy was the most dreaded disease and was incurable. Since it was also contagious, anyone who had it was shunned. In fact, such a person was sent away from the rest of society. The constant call "unclean, unclean" was a sickening cry by lepers as they begged for food and clothing. They were the untouchables of that society.

But Jesus wasn't afraid to give a touch of love. When a leper approached Him one day asking for healing, Jesus "moved with compassion, put out His hand and touched him...." Immediately the man was made completely well. (See Mark 1:40-42.)

There was healing in a touch from Jesus. By His touch the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame could walk and run.

The Bible speaks about God in a way that implies touching. Notice Deuteronomy 33:27:

"The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms."

Isn't it wonderful to imagine a hug from the heavenly Father? What healing that would bring. And perhaps He chooses to use us to deliver a touch of love from Him to someone who needs it.

Caroline suffered for many years from a serious kidney ailment. She had a lot of pain. The time came when she needed to prepare herself for dialysis and eventually she was a candidate for kidney transplant. She was full of hope that she would soon be completely well again.

When the operation was finally completed, however, her body rejected the new kidney and it had to be removed. She became very despondent.

Her pastor came by, but he didn't quite know what to say. The words he had planned seemed empty.

So instead of saying anything, he took her hand and began to sing. For two hours he sang simple choruses, prayer songs, praise songs--and other songs that would bless her wounded spirit.

As the pastor left that day, she said quietly, "God touched me through your hands."

We all need the healing touch of the Master's hand. And perhaps He would like us to be His hands to give a touch of love to someone else.

Shackled by a heavy burden,
'Neath a load of guilt and shame.
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same.

He touched me, O He touched me,
And O the joy that floods my soul;
Something happened, and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.
--William J. Gaither

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