Saturday, August 28, 2010


This morning I read a little story about a Mom in Australia who held her newborn son against her skin for two hours after he was declared dead by doctors. Miraculously he gradually started showing signs of life, and today he is five months old, healthy and a joy to his parents.

Though it seems unrelated, this reminded me of a time, many years ago, when I was a therapist at a mental health clinic. It was my turn to stay in during lunch in case any "walk-ins" came in. A young man showed up, who I mistakenly agreed to see in my office alone, rather than remain in a place with an accessible exit to safety. He seemed rational until he started talking and demonstrating his paranoid delusions, one of them being about how much I resembled some woman he hated. As he spoke, his agitation increased as did my fear that he would become violent. I'm not sure which or how many drugs he had taken.

But eventually, he calmed down, and then was able to talk a little about the drama in his life - abandonment issues, rage, self-destructive behaviors. Staying "detached" from clients never proved to be one of my best therapeutic skills and all I could think about was how sad I felt for him. How must his mother feel?

He talked and I listened. There was not much more I could do, besides encouraging him to connect with family. He refused any services and would not be returning because he actually lived rather far away, in another town. He intended to return to his life style, which included occasional homelessness, to give in to his drug addiction and to remain isolated from his family, who lived in another state. He seemed determined to end his life, a little at a time.

I was relieved when he left my office, and uncharacteristically, I walked him to his car lest he linger in some other part of the facility. After shaking hands, the young man turned to leave. I felt I had not really helped him and all I could do was lay my hand on his back for a second in a motherly, caring manner.

About two weeks later, I received a call from someone whose name I did not recognize. It was the young man. He called to thank me, to tell me that he thought a lot about our conversation and that he had decided he wanted to turn his life around. He had called his parents and was going home.

We all know this was not the happy ending. It was merely the beginning of a long journey for this young man, but it was nice to know that at least for that moment, he had selected a happier path. Whether he stayed on it, I will never know.

The reason the baby story made me think of the young man's story is because I perceive that within them they contain a lesson about the power of touch.

It was the mother's warmth, and the love she communicated through her skin, that revived a life which had already decided to leave.

I know there may be many factors involved, but I am convinced that the touching of that young man is what made the most significant difference in our interaction. Somehow I know I communicated more with the brief, gentle touch than with the words I used.

There are various modalities that incorporate touch for healing, for balancing energy, etc... There is massage, Healing Touch Therapy, Reiki, and others. I think they're all good because the intention is sound and they really can do no harm. But, I don't think you need formal training to touch someone and wish them well.

I don't think we outgrow our need for touch, the same way we don't outgrow our need for food. The human spirit takes nourishment in many forms and in many ways we are all hungry for the gentle, loving touch of a loved one, or even a stranger.

For today, I'm going to focus on touch and how it can communicate my intentions. I hope I transmit the wish for love, health and well-being to all whom I touch.

And though only by way of my imagination, I touch you.


  1. Maybe the young man was just testing you with his talk about the woman you resembled. In any event, you showed extraordinary courage, yet had you behaved differently, he might have well left in far worse shape than he was in when he arrived.

  2. I love this post Myrna ~ two incredible stories!

    I've always called this skin therapy. When my oldest was born she was in NICU for several months. All I could do was stroke her forehead. There was such a difference in healing when the parents were there compared to those who weren't.
    People are meant to be in relationship with one another ~

  3. Sometimes its the healing touch of words that have power to perform miracles too. I'm near tears. What a powerfully poignant blog you've written Myrna, wow. I hope that man you touched keeps finding people willing to help him further along his path with their healing touches too - he won't be able to make it any other way. We all need each other's loving touches whether we want to admit it or not. Which is why I'm sure the first principle in the Bible teaches us that we are our brother's keeper.


  4. What a 'touching' post, dear Myrna. Touch is definitely a miraculous antidote for anything. I loved the stories you shared with us today. But in today's world we need to be reminded about small acts like touching. In running and rushing, we don't stop to relish these lovely acts. it is indeed a joy to feel the tender touch of love from people.
    I liked the last line of your post and here I use it for you: In my imagination, I touch you and say, "Thanks for this heartwarming post."

    Joy always,

  5. Beautiful post Myrna. There is definitely something in a touch. We seemed to have lost that just like hand written letters.
    A very touching post and yes you did make a difference be it in that touch , a listening ear, what ever it may be you were there when he needed someone.
    Take care

  6. I believe in the power of touch. I believe we can do so much for each other. Even being near others can have a profound effect. To know that and respect that is to make a difference already. Thanks for this powerful post. And thanks for looking at my blog!

  7. true words,
    our words touch too.
    Happy Monday 2 U!

  8. Beautiful well told story! Thank you for sharing!

  9. love it! what a powerful instrument God gave us, and how easy we forget to use it. A simple hug, a hand shake, a tender caress...the power of honest words. Thanks for touching our souls!

  10. Just thinking about touch and how, in situations where it isn't possible, kindness can step in to do the job.