I believe in the importance of basic human touch.
I believe in hugs and shoulder massages and foot rubs.
My children would tell you that I hug them too much, that it is embarrassing to endure my displays of affection, especially in public. But I don’t care; I have a deep commitment to the importance of expressing one’s love in small gestures of human contact.
That commitment is born of personal experience. The first experience involved the tragic loss of a friend’s daughter who was kidnapped and murdered a number of years ago. When his daughter first went missing, I wrote to my friend to ask if there was anything I could do to help. He wrote back simply: “Hug your children every day.”
I had always been physically affectionate with my children, but from that day forward, I sought to hug them, well, more thoughtfully. I would hug them with the thought that I must not take them for granted, that they are precious and could easily be lost.
I have never forgotten the advice my friend gave to me, and I have tried to follow it as kind of testament to his love for his daughter. I see this advice as a great gift my friend gave to me in the midst of his grief and despair.
I haven’t managed to hug my kids every day, but I haven’t missed too many days, either.
The second experience of the profound importance of human touch involved taking care of my aging mother once her cognitive function had significantly declined. Although she always recognized me, toward the end, it was difficult to have a conversation with her. She was deeply forgetful and lost in time. When I visited her, it was hard to know how to connect with her or how to express my love in a way that was meaningful. And then I discovered that she liked to have her feet rubbed.
After that, my visits always culminated in a ritual of rubbing my mother’s feet. “Mom,” I would say, “how about a foot rub?” She would always nod yes, and I would bring out the lotion and carefully rub her discolored and somewhat gnarled feet.
She never told me that she enjoyed those foot rubs, but she never declined them either. In a world that had become increasingly chaotic and unpredictable, foot rubs became a constant and a mysterious source of connection.
So I believe in the value of hugs and foot rubs. And as my wife and children would tell you, I also believe in shoulder massages and head rubs.
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