A baby girl was baptized Sunday at our church. When the pastor carefully took her from her mother’s hold, the child, less than a year old, immediately reached up with both hands and began to clutch, rub, and feel the preacher’s chin, cheeks, and lips. She was exploring. She was learning. But when her right arm curved around his neck, the oohing congregation knew something else was transpiring.
Touch. The wonderful, enlightening power of touch. When we think of the incredible, God-equipped gift of our senses, those of sight, hearing, and smell come to mind quickly. But this runt of the litter, this under-sung B-teamer brims with lush pleasures and life-giving potential.
There’s the tactile thrill of contact with familiar things. Who among us can resist touching that baptized baby’s soft little cheeks and Tootsie Roll toes? And what about the feel of really fine, supple leather? The sudden relief of stiff, frozen hands at last gripping a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a blustery January day. The silky fur of your dog’s just-washed coat. The cool, hard surface of quarried marble in museum halls. Tickly, spongy moss under bare feet on the forest floor. The firm assurance of a wedding band. Fine, warm sand sifting through your toes at the beach. That first freshening crash of surf on chest. And then, there is the sheer, “ah, welcome back” pleasure that comes from hands around the tools of a favorite pastime: your driver on the first tee; the skillet you’ll use on a family request for tonight’s dinner; a worn, earth-fragrant garden trowel; the solid right hand grip of your best camera; a treasured pen given by someone special; even the keys of your computer laptop when you’re on there for something fun. So much of what we know about this world is learned through our fingers, our feet, our skin. To go back to touch again those things we love evokes old memories and new pleasures.
Perhaps more important is the power of one person touching another. Jesus healed with a touch, and instantly, lives were changed forever. That power has been passed down to you and to me. The perfect gesture at the moment of greatest need cures some things that no amount of pills can. You shake hands with just the right amount of firmness, but this time you put your left hand on top of the clasp; you caress your wife’s cheek gently and smile; you put your arm around her waist in public; you grab your son-in-law in a big ol’ bear hug, assuring him that he’s family, too; you actually touch that homeless person, acknowledging a humanity already assured by God; you provide to a hospitalized friend that welcomed touch from someone other than a doctor or nurse; you greet a nervous, unsure stranger with outstretched hand. You touch the arm of a troubled co-worker and ask, “are you okay?” And who can forget the electrical surge your whole body felt when that so-cute-I-wanna-cry girl in junior high brushed your arm and smiled, signaling that maybe, just maybe she kind of liked you, too?
Sometimes words are needed. You say it the best you can. But a touch says you mean it. You really do care.
Use the good sense. It makes good sense.