Special to 0-A News
From Walter Albritton, Senior Pastor Trinity UMC
For Sunday, July 25, 1999

Few of us can get along without the touch of another hand

Most nights after we go to bed my wife will rub my forehead for a few minutes. It is sort of a ritual which I enjoy and encourage. I don't mind admitting that the touch of her hand makes a difference in my life.

Of late our society has discouraged touching. The result is that fewer of us are willing to put an arm around someone, especially someone of the opposite sex. That bad word, "harassment," hangs in the air around us. We are scared of appearing to do the wrong thing even though our intentions are noble.

I submit that this trend is robbing us of something that people need. We all need to be touched physically now and then by our friends. We need more than to have our hearts touched; we need the tender touch of a friend who understands. Who is so stiff as to say that a pat on the back is not often helpful? I know some people want to keep others at arm's length, perhaps because they have been hurt and don't wish to be hurt again. I understand that.

There are those who insist on being proper and impersonal. They wear a sign on their faces that says, "Keep it strictly business, folks; don't get close to me." They let us know that you had better keep your distance. Six feet is fine. But human beings are not stiff boards. We are not trees or fence posts. We are living beings who have the need to experience warmth, acceptance, and genuine friendship from the people with whom we live and work.

I remember when my boys became teen-agers that they stopped hugging the old man. One of the boys said as I offered to embrace him, "Let's just shake hands, Dad." He had become self-conscious about hugging his parents in front of his friends. What he seemed to be thinking was that hugging was a bit silly now that he was so "grown up." I patiently endured his reaction but how I thank God now that when this big son comes to see me, a handshake will not suffice. He grabs me in a bear hug that blesses me - after I am able to start breathing again!

I understand that hugging is practiced selectively by most of us. Most men are quicker to hug the pretty women than they are the less attractive gals. And some people don't get hugged because they send out signals with their eyes that say, "Watch it, buddy; hug me and you'll get a knot on your head!" I understand all that. We are different. We react differently to affection.

But still I remain convinced that we need to find a way to save the art of touching. We need each other. An occasional hug to express joyous affection and friendship need not be understood as a desire to go to bed with someone.

As far as I am concerned, I remain a champion of hugging. We need to find appropriate ways to express true affection for one another. Especially since there are times in our lives when the touch of another hand can make all the difference in the world in the survival of our hope.

A bumper sticker asked, "Hugged your child today?" Good question.

How about a bumper sticker that says, "Hugged a friend today?"

So if you have not received your quota of hugs today, stop by. No matter what the stiffly polite people say, I like hugging.