|“REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEBODY’S HAND”
Today I was watching “Fried Green Tomatoes” for the umpteenth time. I love that movie. It’s about women who care about others and reminds me of the importance of taking a moment to acknowledge the elderly person, the disabled person, the lonely person.
All too often the ‘haves’ ignore the ‘have nots’ within our society. Those who have youthfulness, energy, good health, family, living friends, good income, tend to look past those who no longer have the same. On a recent “Whoopie on Broadway”, Ms. Goldburg presents one of her characters to the audience and reminds her audience that too often each of them passes by a disabled person without seeing the person or deliberately avoiding eye contact.
Every day, the ‘haves’ do the same thing to the homeless or disheveled person on the street. Very few people of any age visit or volunteer as visitors to nursing homes, institutions for the mentally and physically disabled and similar locations in their communities. All too often, younger people avoid their disabled or elderly neighbors, hurrying by them as if they might ‘get their disease’. Family members often fail to visit, or hug or simply touch the hand of an elderly aunt or uncle or grandparent. I just don’t understand the ‘why’ of such actions. I'm not referring to the "panhandlers and drug users" on our streets; to help them, the best way is to give support of time or money to the local organizations that exist to serve them.
In the 1970’s, I was the Volunteer Director at Idaho’s institution for the mentally disabled persons who had been put there during the previous fifty years because physicians urged new parents to get rid of their newborn who had cerebral palsy, brain damage, downs syndrome or their older children whose brain was damaged in an accident. Parents were told to ‘just forget them and go on with your lives.” Fortunately, times have changed and that is no longer happening as often in America. Progress in how to treat our fellow human beings led Idaho leaders to provide community services and housing for nearly 700 of those who lived there. Only those who actually needed medical services and constant oversight remained. My job was to enlist caring people of all ages to visit the institution and spend a small amount of time one-on-one with the disabled persons who lived there. I continue to be grateful as I remember the teenagers, soccer moms, grandmothers and others who volunteered to visit those less fortunate.
Research during the 1970’s proved beyond any doubt that the touch by one caring human being made an amazing difference in the life of the one less fortunate. Volunteers from the community and older disabled persons who lived at an institution spent time each day to rock the youngest children and babies in the facility. The research compared those children and babies with others of similar age who did not get the caring human touch. They found that those who were touched, or held and rocked in caring arms, thrived physically, emotionally and mentally. At the same time, the group who did not get the caring human touch, failed to thrive. This holds true in families and communities where acknowledgement and a caring touch make people healthier, happier and more alive.
Diana Ross sang one of the most beautiful songs ever heard; and, its message is still the most important message that people can take to heart and daily life, “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand; make this world a better place. YOU CAN.”
You, me, every person in this world can make a difference in the lives of others. Share a touch, a nod, a smile, a cordial greeting of “have a good day’ with a stranger or neighbor or family member and you will make the world a better place. Don’t be afraid or indifferent to the elderly person, the lonely child, the disabled fellow human being. It is a simple thing to do. Let’s do it. We can.
By Ann Patterson
At every age of humankind, the touch of another
Mends, enhances, heals both body and soul
Baby's first touch to mother's breast
A hand squeezing gently before one's final rest.
An infant receives sweet caresses by parents' touch
The growing child blessed by a touch on the shoulder
Adolescents require hands of many to become mature
Young adults share the touch of sweetest love
Parents glow from child and grandchild's nurturing touch
The greatest loss of the healing balm too often absent in later years
A touch to caress the forehead, arm or hand
Can increase the will for a person to live
The touch of another's hand reflects a heart that truly cares
Its absence brings feeling of loss and tears
Humankind must feel that soft gentle balm, the human touch