During Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to the United State of America there was a moving moment when the Pope stopped his car, got out, reached to a boy with cerebral palsy, touched him and kissed him.
The news report noted that the boy’s father was so moved by the event that he had to turn away. Francis’ touch conveyed love, compassion, healing, hope, and recognition. The family will forever tell the story of the Pope’s love and touch.
The power of touch has been well documented. It is a stress reliever, lowers heart rates, blood pressure and cortisol levels and stimulates positive hormones and neurochemicals. The psychological and spiritual effect of touch are profound, as mentioned. In addition, touch is empowering.
What proceeds touch as an empowering agent is dysphoria and it debilitating effects of helplessness in its various forms. This has been seen in infants and young children who fail to thrive. Without touch they languish between being and not being to the point of death. But when held, touched and caressed they make gains. It is so natural for capable parents to hold, snuggle, and touch their babies that we think nothing of it. It is just what we do. What we don’t know is how essential that touch is for the child’s well-being. We fail to realize that without touch the baby won’t develop normally. We touch mindlessly, automatically, unconsciously. It is like breathing or hearts beating; essential for life but not a conscious effort. Touch is essential for human development and touch is an automatic natural response.
So, while it seems amazing that Pope Francis would touch a maladjusted child it is merely a human reaction to restore or empower another. It is just love. And while you and I are not the Pope we contain in us the same power to heal, restore and empower and we can do it naturally, unconsciously, automatically in response to the dysphoric one. Think about… it is what you mindlessly do. In the presence of a trauma, major or minor, you hurry to attend the victim and you reach out and touch them, “Are you alright?” And here is the epiphany; we can touch, heal and empower mindfully!
Pope Francis saw the need while he was slowly driving by. He stopped the car. He walked directly to the boy. He mindfully and intentionally reach out and touched the boy. You and I can do the same. Stay alert! Be mindful of the people around you. You will discover dozens of opportunity to deliver healing, empower touch.
I did not mention the reciprocal effect of touching, though you may have figured it out. When we reach out and touch the other our own body also senses the touch and the exact same response and benefit is instantly conveyed to the giver of touch. It is as if a circuit has been completed and the flow of love circulates unimpeded.
Touch empowers people. It helps restore them and enables them to be and do what they can do to help make the world a safer better place today, and most importantly, for generations to come.
My ideal day of love includes mindfully touching many people.