Updated: Apr 11, 2020
" I'm sorry Dad, we just want to protect you." Stated one of my girls. Both my grown daughters decided to self quarantine themselves from their mother and I. Since my eldest works in the local Hospital lab and my youngest just flew back home from Florida after being gone for three months. Their conscience felt better avoiding us for awhile. This broke my heart. I know, I know, it's probably the right thing to do. Survival is key. Yet, I have to tell you...my heart still hurts. I cannot seem to shake this sense of loss. As a jewelry designer, you can imagine how sentimental I must be. I may look a little intimidating to some, yet my kids know I am the first to cry at anything that moves my soul. For those of you non- huggers, who maybe did not come from an openly affectionate family, this social distancing may be no big deal to you. In fact, you may be secretly enjoying it lol. My mom and dad were always quick to hug. In our family we hugged to show love, acceptance, celebration, forgiveness and encouragement. This is a integral trait my wife and I have incorporated deep into our own family culture. Without hugs, for myself, it would be like having winter weather and leafless trees year-round. According to an industry magazine, the Scientific American, a cruel study was conducted many years ago to measure whether appropriate skin-to-skin touch (or lack there of) affected the health and development of infant humans. Basically, when the “non-touch” baby cried, those babies were fed, changed and turned, but never held or comforted. It was determined that the lack of physical touch, especially when under stress, was detrimental to human behavior. The negative effects and negative psychological behaviors of those forced to live in environments where appropriate, kind affection was rare or non-existent, was documented long into that persons adult years. They proved not being touched in a loving way seriously messed them up.
I am not saying that what we are going through now currently equates to abuse. However, may all this fear, and separateness not change our society forever. My wife jokingly stated to me, “We are all friendly to each other now, and we are all in this together, how about in a month from now?” Before all this, my family teased me about being such a germ-a-phobe. Yet, will this experience make worse or make me realize that showing affection is worth the risk? When this is all over, we will know if we have changed when we begin to hesitate shaking a hands, or we clinch up when receiving a hug, or think judge-mental thoughts when someone is coughing or not feeling well.
I understand why they are making us do this. Just checking on my elderly parents could be life threatening to them. Having the best intentions, yet hurting people by accident is still not acceptable. However, not being able to show appropriate affection and wrap my arms around my family when they are scared, or not hold my friend with cancer when they are lonely, and not be able to offer an employee a handshake to let them know it’s going to be okay, is just not natural for me. This weight of responsibility to stay away from them in order to keep them safe can only continue for a short time. I feel as one would feel towards a leper. I have to believe I am not alone. Shutting down my business has been tough. Laying off all my employees (who are like family to me) has caused me sleepless nights. Not to mention seeing the streets become more empty, police fining desperate small businesses and a well meaning Governor continuing to curb my personal rights, really rattles my cage. Yet, all that pales to not being able to physically hug and be near those I care for the most. It is unnatural, and common knowledge that avoiding those around us for long periods of time, when we are hurting, is dangerous. Thank God, we will not be separated forever. This virus has hit me in a spot no loss of money could ever match. I am humbly grateful for my personal relationship with a God who comforts, as this human separation has attacked a critical part of my well-being. It is precisely during these horrific and stressful times that we need to be with and around each other. We are yet to experience the repercussions of shutting down our nation. It may get a little ugly. We must fight to keep our cultures acceptance of touch. We must be smart of course. But we must also be brave. Brave will not mean hiding and avoiding. Courage is what we do to move forward in spite of our fear. Stories about people caring for the sick, and starving, and poor, by putting their own health at risk are now the real heros. Actually physically caring for someone. There will be no heroic historical stories written, or statues created, or honor given to those of us who just protected ourselves during these dark times. Going forward, we are going to realize all the funny stories, hilarious jokes and touching photos will no longer sustain us. We are only moved by what we see and hear because we relate it all to someone in our own lives. At some point we need to touch each other again. I pray someone isn't resistant, insulted, hesitant or even afraid to hug me some day after this virus is conquered. Because the fact is, there will always be another virus to fight. We must make sure our future culture includes the appropriate rituals of touch. The only thing we can control is how we respond to our circumstances and how we decide to treat others around us. Fear or love? Of course I will not be a hug fanatic and force people to embrace me. I promise to maintain a sense of dignity and composure lol. My poor wife however, she has had to do double-time hugging me lately. She loves me dearly, and give hugs whenever needed, yet is looking forward to many others filling in for her someday. Hopefully soon.....hopefully soon my friends :)