This I Believe

Sarah-Jane - Nashville, Tennessee
Entered on July 9, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I’m talking about a good handshake! Yup. Nothing gives me the willies more than when suddenly my hello becomes a death grip squeezing the life out of someone’s fingers. Especially when the limp shake comes from a six-foot plus person of integrity. I believe in the power of the unspoken language of touch.

My great-grandmother was the prize to sit by at dinner. She would light-touch your hand with her tangerine fingernails. It was like your own private audience with Grandma Honey.

My good friend is pretty uncomfortable around his parents, but he has a beautiful story he tells. He was horribly sun burned at 10 and he could only lie on his tummy at night. His father put him to sleep by stroking his claves. The only part not burned.

I believe in a hand on a shoulder to calm. I believe in a hand out to guide. I believe in an arm across to warn. I know this isn’t the greatest time to believe in reaching out and touching someone. I know that others will bristle at the idea of a stranger patting they’re back or hugging them spontaneously. Oh, yes it could even be like fingernails on a chalkboard in these times of anti-bacterial gel in every pocket book. The language of touch is lost.

Okay, I know, squeezing cheeks are out.

I am a personal trainer. We are taught to correct with touch. Just one finger to the rib cage can move, can remind a client to engage their abs and make the last 5 push ups righteous. Or engage their shoulder blades to make a well-meaning pull with their back. Or help square a hip while in a squat or plank. My touch is quiet for my serious clients who concentrate too loud. And loud for my clients who chatter while they’re minds wander away from the free-weight approaching their head. My simple touch is answered by corrected form. My touch makes strong confident postures able to tackle the day without their shoulders in their ears.

I have to stop myself from reminding the person in front of me at Starbucks to unlock their knees and ignite a pelvic tilt while standing in line. But I can never help myself from touching an elder person’s hand or back while helping them open the door at the grocery store. The unspoken way to say, “I got your back”.

And perhaps it will be reserved for places like yoga. The last minutes of class when the yogi moves my body into a much more comfortable resting place then I ever could. And gently goes away with the last touch of a firm thumb press on my forehead. It never fails to settle me down. AHHHH Bliss. Touch.

This is for my cousin Hilary who took her life last year. She lived for others. She was the best friend of many. At age 13 her grandmother told her to take care of her parents. She waited until her mother found sobriety and peace, then she could go. She gave the best hugs ever. Strong, breathe through you hugs.