I believe in the power of touch. Whether it is a hand slipping into mine, a gentle pat on the back, or a warm embrace – touch is a form of communication that allows me to speak without words.
Different touches mean different things. A cat brushing against a person is a sign of longing for attention. A hug is a sign of love, support, and compassion. Holding hands is a way of saying “We are connected,” and “I care.” A pat on the back is sign of a job well done, and a kiss on the cheek means “I love you.”
Touch is not only a form of communication, but it also offers healing. After hearbreak or tragedy a hug also means “It will be okay.” Holding someone’s hand while they are in a coma, that feeling of skin on skin contact, might just offer them a reason to fight to return to their loved ones. Touch can help ease pain, soothe anxiety, and it soften the blows of life. Touch offers hope. Doctors also say that touch is good for many medical reasons. Constant contact with other people can help with psychological health. It can lower blood pressure because it relaxes you. According to studies, people who are unafraid of touch, have less anxiety and tension in life.
Growing up, I had a cousin who I used to visit once or twice a year. He had dyslexia and a severe form of mental retardation that prevented him from speaking. He had no other way of letting me know that he loved me or that he wanted something other than grunts and hand gestures. I always considered it weird, but soon he learned that tugging on my sleeve, holding my hand, and letting his hand rest on my knee let me know the important things. A tug meant that he needed something. Holding my hand meant that he loved me. A hand on the knee meant that he was glad that I was his company.
Hugs became another form of communication. They became a way of saying “I am not ready to let you return home yet.” It was through these gentle touches that I learned quickly how much my cousin and I were deeply connected and how much I truly meant to him and him to me. He learned that I could not read sign language and found these new ways to talk with me because he loved me so much. It made our bond that much stronger.
Touch can also be a very negative thing. It can be loving and mean. It can be compassionate and hurtful. It can heal and destroy. When my cousin is angry, he expresses that by hitting me or the wall. When he is frustrated he grunts and flails his hands. He pulls on my shirt roughly when he wants something and no one understands. He kicks when he is unhappy.
The power of touch has become so much more to me than just communicating with my cousin. It has become a way for me to offer comfort, support and love to my friends and family. If they are sad, I hope that my hugs say, “It’s okay. I am here.” When something good happens, I hope my pat on the back says, “Congratulations! I wish you the best.” For my family, touch is more than just hugs and pats on the backs when they are sick. It is a way of saying, “Shhh. You will be feeling better soon.”
Touch can be so much more than this too. Touch is a way of saying, “I love you.” It’s a way of letting people know that you love them. Touch has more power than words, because I can mess up words. I cannot mess up touch. They are my actions and they speak loudly. They let someone know how much I care without having to say it out loud. It’s a nonverbal way of saying everything that is in my heart and not having to spill it all. It’s a beautiful form of expression that never fails.