Comforting Words: Healing a Touch –Starved World

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Healing a Touch –Starved World

As the week progressed, I was somewhat nervous as no idea was forming in my mind about what to share in Comforting Word this week.

Several readers have asked me where do I get ideas for my articles. Their responses have ranged from “Really?” to “That’s what happens to me also,” as I told them that ideas come to me when I am in the shower, making dinner or driving to work. Very frequently, not only will I ‘hear’ the focus of my next article clearly but will receive pointers as to how that particular point of interest connects with other issues and experiences of the week.

Although several events occurred this week, none of them immediately jumped out at me as a potential focal point for this week’s post. By Friday, I was beginning to feel very nervous as my muse was not ‘speaking’ to me. I spent much longer than I usually would in the shower, cooked more than we needed and instead of driving, took the bus to work – just to make the trip a bit longer.

All my attempts were seemingly to no avail. Feeling hopeless that I would have nothing to write about this week, very late Friday night I turned my attention to researching for a presentation that I have to make next week.

As I raked through the pile of books and my notes from the documentaries that I had viewed earlier in the week, it hit me. I could hear my muse laughing at me, saying, “Claudette, it was there all along. All the information you needed was staring you in the face and you wrote on it before so I figured you would finally get it.”

“Healing a Touch–Starved World” are my Words of Comfort this week, a concept developed by and borrowed from Mariana Caplan and I share them along with these Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart.

Words from Scripture

From the New Testament:
Matthew 9: 21

“If I only could touch his cloak, I will be made well.”

Words of Comfort

There are weeks that are seemingly so uneventful and then there are others so chock-full of ‘happenings’ that it is hard to catch one’s breath before another news breaking moment is unfolding. The week beginning Sunday, June 26 was one of the latter.

Despite the attempts by religious, conservatives and so-called pro-traditional marriage groups, same-sex marriage bills were passed in the Parliaments of not one, but two countries – Canada and Spain.

A second reported incident of gay bashing made the headlines here in Edmonton, with some quarters calling for the provisional Government to be held responsible for promoting an environment of hate.

An interesting article, from the New York Times News Services was printed in the Edmonton Journal, entitled “Friends: The Key to Longevity,” confirmed and supported some of my arguments in a recent post on the value of friendship.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired what I felt is a very insightful documentary on racism. “Indecent Exposure” highlights the work being done by Jane Elliot to expose and heal the wounds of this insidious behaviour. This is a film which not only Anglo-Saxon men and women should view but also people of colour.

The final newsworthy event that caught my attention was the preparations for the Live 8 Concert. This simulcast of concerts at eight venues across the world is organised by famous musicians to increase public awareness and start a movement that would pressure the Group of Eight nations to proactively work towards ending poverty in Africa.

Being the homebody that I am, rather than going to the July 1 parades and street parties as many others did, I made myself comfortable with my books at my feet while I watched the celebrations on television. I was reading “To Touch Is to Live,” by Mariana Caplan and as I waited for my daughter to return from the Canada Day parade and festivities, the connection between these stories became clear to me.

There were several specially produced programmes on CBC marking the 138th birthday of Canada and in at least two that I saw, the interviewees were expressing their vision for Canada and what being citizens of this country meant to them. In one particular programme, the journalist focussed on new Canadian citizens who were part of the annual Canada Day Citizenship ceremonies held across the country.

Whether they were new citizens or old, they all spoke about a desire to “belong” – to a country where people are more than their cultural, religious and ethnic background, more than their sexual orientation or income status.

Men and women representing many nations and various ethnic groups spoke in almost one voice about their desire to be full members of a Canadian community that would reach out to the world and help heal its wounds.

Listening to them, I looked down at the pages of the book in my lap and noted that I was on the chapter entitled “Touch-Starved Nation.” As I read the chapter, its relevance to the desires of these Canadians was evident. I could also see the connection with the other news stories about gay bashing, friendship, basic human right to marry, exposing racism and ending poverty not only in Africa but wherever it exists.

In one of my earlier articles, “Reach Out and Touch,” I referred to the “no touching policy” of the western world. Caplan, however, made me realise that this problem with touching goes much deeper and have several sides through what she aptly describes as “untouchability” and the untouchables of North America and Europe:
“Who are the untouchables of the civilized world? They are the gay people, the African Americans, the Hispanics, the Chinese, the poor, the homeless, immigrants, people with AIDS, the elderly, people with physical and mental disabilities, and people who live in communities, spiritual groups and other alternative lifestyles. They are the ‘have-nots’ in any given society.” (14)

Another thing that struck me as I read this – it would be hard for me to miss it – was that I, Claudette, fall in several of these categories; I am an “untouchable.” This was the very point Jane Elliot made to the Aboriginal and other people of colour in that CBC documentary and she went on to ask the question – “What are you going to do about it?”

The first task, I believe, for anyone falling into one or more of these categories of untouchability is to understand why, in this day and age, this atrocity called discrimination continues to grow.

Having become more politically correct in its language, western societies have ‘removed’ certain offensive terms from its daily vocabulary. Caplan so rightly points out that, words such as ‘nigger’ has been upgraded (my term) to African-American and ‘fag’ has become ‘gay. “However,” Caplan contends, “these names are often little superficial niceties that often serve to mask the underlying fact of socially sanctioned untouchability.” (14)

For Caplan and people who share her view, and having read the material through I count myself as one, the problem continues to grow as societies, particularly North American societies and those that they influence, lose their sense of touch.

Touch here means far more than physical touch – albeit that is very much a part of the equation. By touch, what is meant is a sense of connection, that there is more to life than passing acquaintances, that people are in true relationship with each other and therefore there is genuine trust and concern.

This is the kind of touch that creates “Rainy Day Friends,” as I call them and the touch that comes from such relationships cannot be developed if "we do not acknowledge our shared humanness," says Caplan.

If it was not so painfully true I would find Caplan’s “12 Steps To Avoid Human Touch and Intimacy,” (6-7) extremely funny.

She states that in our effort to avoid human touch – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual - we:
1. Eat, exercise and dress in a way that will make [us] feel and appear strong.
2. Find a job in which [one] will be overworked and stressed out. [We] become too busy to have time for anyone or anything.
3. Pursue a profession in which . . . manipulation, swindling and gaining the upper hand is considered normal and even desirable.
4. Avoid exercise, fresh air, and nourishing foods to that [you] feel weak, toxic and unworthy to touch.
5. Spend as much time as possible in front of the television, computer . . . filling your minds with images of murder, rape and unrealistic relationships.
6. Drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and take antidepressants and other socially acceptable and unacceptable intoxicants to numb mind and body.
7. Become part of a social circle in which people are pretentious, polite and/or superficial…Live in a culture in which, as a norm, people are generally unaffectionate with one another.
8. If you have children, be sure to place your needs above theirs…and get babysitters every weekend…buy them [toys], computers and allow them to watch as much television as they would like.
9. Buy a dog or cat and place all of your love, affection and intimacy needs in that animal while avoiding giving your loved ones the same attention.
10. Make a general attempt to avoid your feelings and your own pain. In doing so, you will not notice the feelings of others.
11. Avoid close relationships with members of the same sex. They see beneath your cover and do understand you, and therefore may demand that you are real with them.
12. In sexual relationships, be aware only of your own needs and do everything to get them met. Be self-centered and selfish in relationships in general.

Do you see yourself on this list? I certainly see some aspects of me and so I am taking Caplan’s advice and refuse to be a proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, denying that living as we do, in fear of each other, is dangerous.

Therefore, catch me if you can as I march with those people who are living healthy, working at a reasonable pace and using my computer in moderation and as necessary. More importantly, I will be entertaining myself in the company of other human beings instead of joining the ranks of those scouring Internet chat rooms for the love of their lives.

I will be following Caplan’s suggestion and invite you to join me in finding friendship and support from members of your own sex, who do not consume excessive alcohol and drugs.

Will you be a parent who will really be present with your children, touching and showing them affection appropriately and a mother who is not afraid to breast-feed?

Can you imagine yourself a pet owner who loves his/her human family members as much as you do Fido? What about finding time to explore your spirituality and walking your own spiritual path and embracing all that you are?

Better still, what about entering into relationships that are more about giving than taking; relationships in which sexuality and your body are sacred?

Could you find it in yourself to truly love and touch your neighbour as well as your own soul, whether they are gay, African-American, African-Canadian, Hindu, Chinese, elderly, mentally or physically challenged?

If any of these things appeal to your sense of goodness and community, then join me and become, what Caplan calls, a Professional Toucher – making the world whole again as we heal others and ourselves.

Words from the Heart
Touch Me
Author Unknown
Source: Motivating Moments

If I am your child . . .
Please touch me.
Find ways to meet my needs.
Your goodnight hug helps sweeten my dreams.
Your daytime touching tells me how you really feel.

If I am your teenager . . .
Please touch me.
Don't think because I'm almost grown,
I don't need to know that you still care.
I need your loving arms;
I need a tender voice.

If I am your friend . . .
Please touch me.
Nothing lets me know you care like a warm embrace.
A healing touch when I'm depressed assures me I am loved,
And reassures me that I'm not alone.
Yours may be the only comforting touch I get.

If I am your life's partner . . .
Please touch me.
You may think that your passion is enough,
But only your arms hold back my fears.
I need your tender reassuring touch,
To remind me I am loved just because I am me.

If I am your grown-up child . . .
Please touch me.
Though I may have a family of my own to hold,
I still need Mommy's and Daddy's arms when I hurt.
As a parent, the view is different;
I appreciate you more.

If I am your aging parent . . .
Please touch me.
Hold my hand,
Sit close to me, give me strength;
And warm my tired body with your nearness.
Although my skin is worn and wrinkled,
It loves to be stroked;
Don't be afraid.

Blessings, until my mid-week audio post.


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