Recently, an acquaintance approached me for advice on how to proceed with a book he wanted to write. The subject was non-fiction and on a topic I knew little about, but I agreed to meet him for coffee and listen to his ideas. He’d researched his subject and had so many thoughts, he was almost drowned in them. I asked few questions when he’d finished, hoping to help him organize his approached. He considered the points I’d raised for some time. I wasn’t surprised. I knew him to be a reserved and thoughtful man.
At the end of our conversation, he rose to take his leave of me and I admit, I had no idea whether or not I’d been of any help to him. Then, instead of shaking my hand, which was our usual manner of parting, he reached out and gave me a hug. The gesture spoke volumes.
Walking back to my apartment, I thought about the importance of touch. Not all the tweets and social messages that crisscross the internet can compete with touch as a form of communication.
My mother is a hugger… a toucher … a tactile person. When I was a child, she’d chase me across the room, threatening me with kisses until I could resist no longer. Then I’d fall, giggling, into her arms.
A little of her exists in me. While co-hosting an episode of Just Read It with Susan Stoner, I touched her arm to make a point about The Orphan Train. A viewer noticed that touch and remarked the gesture gave the discussion warmth. Even witnessing a touch has its affect, apparently.
Sushma Subramanian is writing a book about touch and the role it plays in our lives. She’s uncovered studies to show that “touching communicates emotion and builds empathy and trust.” (“Hands-On Learning,” by Sushama Subramanian, Money, March 2015, pg. 84.) Of course, anyone who’s been hugged knows the truth in that statement. Yet, there is a healing aspect, too. A study out of Carnegie Mellon reveals that those who receive daily hugs have a lower risk of stress-related infections than those who don’t. (“The Cuddle Cure,” Family Circle, April 2015, pg. 88.)
The power of touch seems so self evident it hardly bears comment, but as a writer, I’m compelled to be reflect upon it. My conclusion? Words are puny substitutes for this silent language.