Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Best - I Just Want To Touch Someone....

I have worked since I was 15 years old, at so many kinds of jobs. One  of the part time jobs I had when I was a teenager, was as an aide in  nursing homes. A resident named Mary lived in one of these nursing homes. I still remember her.  That was over 30 years ago, but I can still see Mary with the long, single silver braid down her back. Sometimes it doesn't  seem that far away in time. This post is for Mary.

I woke up this morning to Baby E's arms tangled up in my hair. He is in our bed. I  remember falling asleep to a thunderstorm last night, nothing too noticeable for me, but it must've been for him. Whenever I wake up to his warm body so close to mine, I am grateful for his human touch. Mary often comes to my mind in moments like these--a vision from my past. I hear her voice, "Please? I just want to touch someone! Will you come in here? Please?"

I usually began my shift at the nursing home by catching up on what the last shift had not been able to finish.  On this particular day, I had so much work to do that I was starting to feel a little panicked. I had tried to sneak past Mary's room--as I always did when I was rushed-- but it was too late. She had caught sight of my white uniform running past her door. Mary would sit right at the threshold of her room, with the door wide open, in hopes of catching someone to just hug. They didn't even have to hug her back, she'd do it all.

"Be right there, Mary, here I come, just let me put this down," I called out to her. I set down the laundry I had been carrying, and leaned down into her bent form, molded into her chair. She'd hold me in her bird like frame. I could feel her sigh so deeply, with such relief, it would shake her small body. "Bless you, bless you, bless you!" she'd whisper to my cheek. "My pleasure, Mary, you know I love your hugs," I'd smile and gently try to pull away. I'd always try to not look straight into her eyes. I was always caught off guard by the quick way they'd  fill with tears.

I think of Mary on this morning, as my youngest lays so close to me. His skin is as smooth as cool water. I think of how she needed touch as much as she needed to eat, be taken care of, be covered with an extra blanket at night. I remember the Sociology 101 Experiment we all read about as freshmen in college. The experiment where infants were separated from their mothers to see if a reduction in human contact stopped the spread of disease. It did, and it did much more than that, too. 75% of the infants separated from their mothers died. This was the beginning of what we now call, "failure to thrive."

There is a pastor in our small town, who stands outside of his church every Sunday morning, giving out hugs to every single person who walks into his service that day. After months of driving past there on a Sunday morning, and seeing this, I decided to call him. Could I come in, I wondered, and ask him why he was so intent on giving everyone who walked past him, a hug? Did he know the entire town called him "the hugging pastor"? I was curious, how did it start?

I told him I'd see some people laugh and try to outmaneuver his hugs. I'd also see see the elderly, or the lonely, just melt into his  arms. When I spoke with him, and asked about the reason for his determination to give his hugs out like chocolate kisses, he answered me, "I began doing this on an occasional basis, then one day, an older woman said to me, "you know, pastor, this is the first time someone has touched me all week." My heart went back to "Mary" when he told me this, "just like Mary," I thought.

I remember how my grandmother would comb my curls, singing to me while she took her time curling each strand around her finger, slowly, as if I was the only thing that mattered in her world at that moment. I can still feel her soft hands smoothing my hair, and hear her soft voice singing me her song. The gift of human touch.

To my child that allows me quick grabs of hugs, I take them, to the other two that still bless me with longer, more luxurious basking in their arms, I do. When I run into a friend, or someone from work, I will try to work in a shoulder touch, or a quick rub on the back, or place my hand to rest on their arm for a second. It all matters.

I think of how very fortunate I am, that in my life, in my house, I can hug and be hugged at any time. I have but to step just a few feet in any direction, and I am able to find the human contact I need. I can barely stand the thought of ever reaching a point in my life, where I haven't been touched in a week, haven't felt a soft warm little body on my lap, or had no one in their too quickly growing body laugh and try to out dodge one of my hugs. I cannot imagine a life like that, I am so incredibly lucky to have the life I have now. I welcome every hug, the stickier, the better. I am not one to say, "your hands are dirty, and you might get a spot on my white shirt ," or "I just fixed my hair and you might mess it up."

I remember sitting on a blanket at a soccer game, and my then 3 year old son reaching up to hug me with his blue cotton candy hands, a friend sitting with us cautioned him, "you'll get your mommy's shirt all sticky!" The confident answer that flew out of his mouth made my heart swell,  "she loves my hugs, especially when they're blue and sticky!"

Finding Baby E in our bed this morning takes my thoughts back to Mary. I hear her voice, "Please? I just want to touch someone."    "Yes, Mary, I'm right here. Let me have one of your hugs, Mary."

On Sundays, I've been running old posts from the first months of my blogging here. This one ran early April 2010. I still think of Mary, and how lucky I am to have more hugs than I can count in a day.

Happy Sunday!


  1. Oh such a poignant post today. I have never been a touchy feely person, not I think because I don't want lots of hugs but more because that was how I grew up. We were not a demonstrative family and so I feel awkward hugging people, even friends I have known for some time. But with my daughter is is a different matter - she is a very affectionate little girl (everyone says so, not just we her parents) and so far shows no signs of changing. She loves to be hugged and kissed and her behavior has in turn helped me to be demonstrative with other people. So like you, I hope the hugs and kisses never stop and feel blessed to be on the receiving end of such affection.

  2. I'm afraid of strangers or people I do not know trying to hug me.

    I have some issues. Don't like allowing people in my personal space without some very clear guidelines.

    Sad, but it's my past catching me.

    But family? My friends?
    Oh yes, I love hugs.

    "a friend sitting with us cautioned him, "you'll get your mommy's shirt all sticky!" The confident answer that flew out of his mouth made me smile, "she loves my hugs, especially when they're sticky!""

    That's beautiful. So very sweet.

  3. oh my goodness, i love that your son said that you love sticky hugs. I love being a parent who is willing to get dirty and sticky (and let her children do the same) -- even though we've ruined a LOT of clothing in the process!
    And as someone who is not a huggy person, I still know that a touch with love can make all the difference in my day.

  4. This was beautiful and such a touching reminder of how much a soothing hand can heal a lonely heart.

  5. Oh my gosh, I loved this SO much!

    As a side note...I worked at a nursing home briefly when I was 19...but in the kitchen. Wrote about it once, it's floating around somewhere. I didn't have a Mary (I had a "Lottie" in high school that I'd go visit every once and a while though) -- but there was one woman who would always see me pass and stretch out her arms while crying, "my daughter, my daughter..." I'll never forget that, or the picture of her in my mind--it would send shivers of sadness through my body everytime--and I don't think I was every really able to piece it all completely together until I read your line, "Please? I just want to touch someone."

    Beautifully written. xo

  6. Dear Lovelies: Thank you for your visits! Without creating another post here, let me say that I grew up with a mother that never touched. Thank God for my grandmother, who did. It made ALL the difference in the world to me, and I thank God she was my main caretaker. I know, first hand, that a simple touch makes you feel that you exist. Thank you for your comments!

  7. I love this post. Wonderful! It's so true too...those elderly just wish to be touched, to be hugged sometimes. I never push Jonathan's hugs from me. I want them! I love the hugs. My husband is very affectionate because he never got it growing up. I did get hugs, so sometimes I'm a little surprised by how often he needs a hug. But I don't mind doing it!

  8. What a beautifully written piece. I, too, always hug my friends and loved ones. As I'm single and live alone, I rely on my dog and cat for daily hugs, too. It's the gentle touch of another living creature that we crave.

  9. Wonderful post--so sad, but reminds us to touch those who are sometimes forgotten.

  10. Lisa: Loved your post at Boondock Ramblings, about your soon-to-be redneck 3 yr old. You poor thing...happens to all of us. Thank you for your visit today, with what you have going on :)

    Jayne's World: you are so right. It's that contact we crave, to show we are here. Very true. Thank you for coming over...I enjoy your blog very much. Your posts are so sincere.

    Dear sweet Muthering Heights: I know that you know the power of touch, and I' sure this post was just "preaching to the choir" with you. You spread love wherever you happen to be..

    Dear Bossy Betty: Thank you for coming over. I am now addicted to your Monday Morning flowers...I count on that post. Absolutely, touch means so much to those that no longer have it available...

  11. That made me tear up.

    My love language is not physical touch. It doesn't dawn on me how much some people long for that touch. My youngest came along and all he wants to do is have someone hug him, kiss him, scratch his back, hold him, etc. I know the Lord put him in my life to make me be still and give love that others need.

    Thank you for sharing.

  12. what a sweet and touching post. I love the hugs and I think sometimes, a simple touch can soothe a troubled heart.

  13. Oh, this made me want to cry! Your description of Mary is just heart-breaking.

    This post changed my whole day. Good for you.

  14. Dear Southern Gal: Hello!! Lovely to have you hear. I know, something to think about. I have never forgotten Mary. Thank you for stopping!

    Dear JennyMac: Hi! Love your blog. So very gorgeous. Yes, just a touch can make a huge difference to someone on that day, so right.

    Dear DEM: How are you surviving this week? Nothing works better for both parties, then a warm, luscious hug. I can't get enough somedays. Their little warm heads on my face. I just love it...and I have it, anytime I want it. Wonderful, no? xoxoxoxo

  15. Oh the power of touch-- What a beautiful post.

    I've spent a lot of time at nursing homes and hugs and hand holding are so important. You're kind to have recognized Mary's sincere need to beheld.

    Cheers to you.

  16. So lovely and sad. It is true. How many people on this earth go without the touch of another being. My girls cuddle up to me on a daily basis, even now as teenagers. We are blessed.

  17. Your beautiful post has me bawling at my desk right now. Touch is a powerful thing. I lost my husband to cancer 14 months ago, and the loss of touching someone every day is getting unbearable. I am Mary, just in another setting. The kids are thousands of miles away and hugs at work just don't fit in. I need to make some changes soon, cuz it's just too hard and depressing.

  18. Dear AngAK: please email me. I'd love to talk to you. Please? Loving you from here, me.

  19. I commented on this the other day but I think I forgot to wait for the code. My comment is:
    This is Truly Lovely. I bow to your Awesomeness!

  20. This is terrible. I mean, terrible in a good way and terrible in a sad way. It's haunting.
    Thanks for writing this.

  21. wow.
    i remember having a friend in college that had never really been touched and i've always been a big hugger; he revealed to me that i was the only person he'd let hug him. it was sad and great, all at the same time.
    your post makes me want go hug everyone around me.

  22. Yup I think I need to go find someone to give me a hug... My mom is pretty good about giving hugs but my dad is a very hands-off kinda person. It's hard for me, not to get any kind of attention like that from him...

  23. I loved this post. I grew up in a household where hugs were not common. Or 'I love yous'. I grew up not being very touchy feely. I felt invaded, icky. Even with friends, boyfriends, I felt awkward with hugs and touches of any kind.

    Until I met my husband. And had my son. I cannot bear the thought of not getting any hugs, cuddles, snuggles from my boys. I sort of feel sad for my little girl/ young woman self.

    Thank you for this.

  24. Thank you for re-running this post. As I sit here sniffling over my keyboard I am reminded to be grateful today for all my hugs. I am rich in hugs, and nothing can replace that!

  25. I volunteered at some nursing homes since and I grew up in a very small retirement community and loved older people. I loved bringing a smile to the residents faces when deep down I wanted to cry because I knew their own families didn't visit them. I also grew up very close to my grandparents and even at 27 years old, I snuggled up next to my Grandpa on the couch every chance I could get when we were on our last visit to the States. I love this post and am so glad you re-ran it!

  26. How absolutely, exquisitely touching and beautiful.

    (My daughter is a Virgo and works in non-profit, so I feel a certain kinship.)

    What a find you are.

  27. This was beautiful. The human touch is so powerful. And so magical too. Sometimes I get frustrated when my daughter is crying so much, but then, to see the way her whole face lights up when I pick her up and hold her close? Bliss.

  28. This is beautiful!

    I have a cat that only wants to be touched when he wants to be touched. He pushed off my chest when I ry to hug him. I thought that he would get used to it but it has been a year & no. Drives me bonkers. I want to kiss & cuddle him.

  29. Oh wow. Count me as a cryer after reading this post.
    Reminds me of my beloved Rebecca, who I used to visit until she passed away at the age of 94. She was such a blessing, and I think all the time that I'm lucky we had each other.
    In her last days, I visited her at the convalescent home and saw many, many Marys.
    This was beautiful.

  30. Time and touch are the most important gifts

  31. Just lovely.

    What lucky people to be loved and touched by you.


  32. You have such a beautiful way with words, Empress. The greatest gift that you give me with your prose is reminding me to appreciate everyday things, every single day.

  33. The one thing I miss most about not being in a relationship is hugs. I know I'm loved by many people... and I'm lucky. But sometimes? It'd be nice to not just know it but *feel* it.

    I miss hugs the most.

  34. When I first started brining my hubs around my family he was uncomfortable with how often we hug. When we arrive at each others house, when we leave, when something good happens, when we need comfort.
    Now, years later, he's a hugger, and very affectionate. He's started hugging his own parents more and he understands how important touch really is.

  35. I, too, get hugs & touch frequently, but I forget how important it can be for someone who doesn't. Beautiful post.

  36. I really love running these old posts, I've forgotten about them.

    Just one of the wonderful things about blogging: all these thoughts, here, for me.

    I shudder when I hear about people losing their posts. I back up every now and then, but I still hear about posts being lost.


    Thank you, all for stopping by, on your weekend time.

    Thank you.

  37. I am a hugger and I have to touch…though, with all the restraining orders it is hard to keep the old huggers and new ones straight. :) Seriously though, hugging is a way of life for me. Even the servers in my home Waffle House give me hugs when I come in; sometimes even before I sit down. But they all will come by and give me a hug sometime before I leave. And they thank me for it. All of us need our hugs (or strokes as the head doctors call it). I can understand your Mary, too. And I love you for taking the time to let her hug you.

  38. dont know how i missed this yesterday...but it gave me a big smile...we all need just a touch, to validate us at times, to let us know someone cares...

  39. I just knew we were long-lost bloggy sisters. You have no idea how much this post speaks to me, Alexandra. I'm covered in goosebumps. I, too, worked for awhile in a nursing home and there was one patient in particular, an older Greek woman, I was always very fond of. We had such a wonderful friendship in the time that I was there. Just like your Mary, hugs meant the world to her... I just don't ever think I expressed to her how much they meant to me as well. I would like to meet this pastor. He sounds so lovely, caring, and attentive.

    Thank you again. Your words always have such a profound effect on me, Alexandra. *HUGS*

  40. I think everyone needs a Mary - just to be touched.

  41. Empress, you're not supposed to make me cry.
    I worked in a nursing home and my elderly clients would always grasp my hand or pull me close for a hug. I always wondered why. It's because I'm cute...kidding. I'm trying to make you laugh too.

  42. So good! Now I have to go call my grandmother :)

  43. What a beautiful post. It breaks my heart to think about Mary sitting there, just longing for human contact. My parents weren't the touchey/feeley type, but my cousin's were. I remember going to stay at their house and I envied they easy way they all had of throwing their arms around each other or the kids jumping in their dad's lap. The good thing is I now realize how important this is and my kids do not lack for human contact :)

  44. You're going to make me cry.

    This is really, really beautiful. I have a child who sometimes has a hug and sometimes has run out. Sometimes I can convince him that I have one and can give it to him, and sometimes not. Sometimes I get leg hugs, and sometimes I get an "up" hug where I get to pick him up. Whether he hugs me gently and tucks his head under my neck or throws himself bodily at me, they are the best hugs I've ever had.

    I really want to hug Mary, so I think I'll send her one. Wherever she is.

  45. Just a beautifully written note. I'm so glad you're reposting your old stuff :)

  46. You're making me weep.

    I remind myself never to be the first to break contact when the girl gives me a hug. She'll stop on her own soon enough.

  47. This post is such a blessing...thank you for rerunning it.

  48. lovely thoughts on human touch. the way you bounce between e and mary and other images like the pastor and your grandma works because, as you know and demonstrate, the focus is touch, with a remembrance of someone special who needed your hugs like food.
    thanks for this:)

  49. WOW, very moving. I think I may go volunteer at the nursing home this weekend. I miss my grandma so much. But I was with her a lot in her lifetime, and I can say that she got lots of my hugs.



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