Touch in Communication

Hi! Dr. Bob here.

You’re probably familiar with the old poem by Myra Brooks Welch, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” about an old violin whose value went up when a great violinist played it. I don’t have space to print it all here, but here’s a link: http://gbgm-umc.org/DISC/poems/mastershand.stm

The poem ends, “But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.”

Communication theory emphasizes the importance of touch in nonverbal communication. Lee Hopkins has a short article which may help with some background: http://www.leehopkins.com/nonverbal-communication-touch.html

Nonverbal communication experts talk about negative touch, positive touch, power in touching (here’s a good summary: http://www.dr-jane.com/chapters/Jane110.htm). Touch is, of course, very powerful, and should be used well and wisely.

One of the beautiful things about touch is the use of it to express love and friendship. My dear mother-in-law Edith, 94, is a wonderful Christian woman. She was quite sick in the fall of 2009. She missed three months of meals in the dining hall of her retirement complex, where she had sat with her friends for almost 14 years. Many of her old friends were missing her, I could see. Just before Christmas, my wife and I went with her to her first meal, after a nearly three month’s absence from the dining hall.

How wonderful it was to see Edith’s friends come to greet her, shaking her hand, giving her a touch or squeeze on the shoulder or arm, or maybe a brief hug. The handshakes were more than that, as they held hands with her for a few seconds longer, welcoming mother back to the meals, which they had enjoyed together with her for many years.

“Helen Keller, famous blind author, once wrote that she could tell a lot about a person by just a handshake.” An article in “Fellowship,” Vol. 2 #128, continues that “it has been proven over the years that people who lack one sense often compensate through the other senses. Without doubt, the greatest hands of history are those nail-pierced hands of Jesus Christ. What an experience for “doubting Thomas” when the Lord said to him, “Reach here your finger and see my hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.’” (John 20:27)

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