My hands have many imperfections. My two middle fingers curve in toward each other before the tips turn up to the ceiling. White dots on my fingernails sporadically document my clumsiness. A white scar continues to fade on my left pinky knuckle. Despite imperfections, hands are powerful. Hands are the feature I always notice. Hands have the power to create with the stroke of a brush or the strum of a string. Hands spin webs of yarn to make blankets, hats and scarves. Closely trimmed nails with just a hint of white show careful attention to grooming. Fingers constantly stroking hair reveal an active mind. Drumming fingers expel a restless energy.
When barriers are down and vulnerability emerges, people reach out a hand. There’s such strength and warmth in hands which cannot be conveyed by mere words. I work with some patients who cannot speak. One patient likes to run her fingers through my hair before grabbing my hand and pulling me close to her. Another patient wants to thank me for helping him to eat, and we exchange a series of hand squeezes and head nods. I leave his room with a full sense of his gratitude.
Enfolding a tiny hand in mine, I feel a protective nature of trust in the grasp. When my hand is enveloped by a stronger, more powerful one, I feel a sense of peace. Touch is underestimated and unnecessarily avoided. We seem to realize the importance and naturalness of it with infants and small children. We have no inhibitions when it comes to hugging a small child or patting their head affectionately. It’s fairly natural and uninhibited for me with the elderly as well. A daily hug and a hand placed on the shoulder is as natural as telling someone to have a great afternoon.
We shouldn’t have to be under the age of 5 or over 70 to experience the emotional power of touch. A friendly hand on my arm or a reassuring pat on my hand helps me to breathe more easily. In the subtle concluding wisdom of comedian Steve Smith on the Red Green Show, it seems to say: “Remember, I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.”