While watching the recent Winter Olympics, I felt a stab in my heart as the expected winner in the women’s downhill skiing event stood off to the side of the ecstatic gold, silver, and bronze medal winners. Her head was bowed nearly to her chest, shoulders shaking as tears dripped through quivering fingers trying desperately to hide her face.
She’d failed. Miserably. Utterly.
Don’t we all know what that feels like?
If failure weren’t bad enough, after years – years – of hard work had crashed and burned within seconds, her shame was being broadcast across the entire world.
Then one of the celebrating medalists noticed her. And time stopped.
I have no idea which countries were represented here, or even names, because the scene actually flashed only briefly on my TV screen as we were fast-forwarding to figure skating. But it will be forever etched into my mind.
The medalist quietly broke away from the cheering throng and approached the heart-broken athlete slowly, hesitantly, as if she didn’t quite know what to do. Her beaming smile was replaced by a look of warm compassion. She reached out her hand and placed it on the weeping gal’s back.
Suddenly, with the click of a FF button, the image was gone, but not forgotten. Nope. I’ve thought about it many times since.
In the midst of her own joyful celebration, the medalist allowed herself to be interrupted. She intentionally felt the pain of another – quite possibly someone who didn’t even speak her language – and she responded with touch, the universal language of caring.
As a toucher myself, this really resonated with me. I find myself wondering, How many people might have needed even a small touch from another human being today to feel worthy, noticed, valuable … yet didn’t receive it from me?
During my 36 years in hand therapy, I witnessed over and over again how much difference a simple touch could make to someone in distress. Some days I think I helped the patient more by just holding her hand or gently patting his arm than the best pain modalities or strengthening exercises could possibly offer.
I was saying, “I’m right here with you” and “You have my undivided attention and support” without words. Their responses never ceased to amaze me. There’s incredible healing power in touch.
While doing research for Too Blessed to be Stressed, I studied body language and found that the closer to the heart you touch a person speaks to the level of your trust and/or affection.
For example, touching someone’s hand implies a beginning level of friendship; patting or resting your hand on their arm would exhibit a slightly increased level of trustfulness than between mere acquaintances. Gripping their shoulder would be the next deeper level; placing your hand on their back indicates the deepest level of caring and trust. It is, after all, nearly a hug, isn’t it, the granddaddy of all demonstrations of caring?
So that Olympic medalist was speaking heart-to-heart, without saying a word. So simple a gesture. Yet so profound in its repercussions.
Dearest BBFF (Blessed Blog Friend Forever), let’s take a moment and consider – who can you and I minister to today through the healing power of touch?
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