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A young friend wrote me a sweet thank you note before she traveled back to school, “ Dear Patty, she wrote, I firmly believe that your hugs are the cure for cancer.”

Recently, I flew to Oklahoma City for an important event. That day and the previous ones I had been putting in long hours to make up for that short vacation. I was tired, and as I sat on my spacious comfy seat, I had hoped for a pleasant flight so I could sleep on my way there.

It was not to be. My seat companion was a young mother with her 8 month old baby. The baby girl, whose name is Haven, was darling and not happy to find herself in her mother’s constraining embrace. She fuzzed and cried on and off despite all attempts her mortified mother made to quiet her down. Yet, what seemed to relax her was actually touching me. She touched my face, my arm, my shoulder, held my pinky, and even my nose at one time. Whenever she did that, she would stop crying and smiled. At the end of our flight, her sweet mother said, “She seems to have found a friend.”

I have been on the receiving end of hugs that crushed not only ribs but cares, concerns, fears, pains, sorrows and thousand other things, hugs that made all the difference.

Why though? Why is touch so important?

Studies have demonstrated that babies who are not held by their mothers early and often do not fare as well in growth and development, physically, mentally and emotionally, as those who are. So much so, that some hospitals hire physical therapists to provide the cuddling to preemies when their mothers, because of health issues, cannot.

There is something about the sense of touch that connects us to our surroundings in a way that sight, smell, taste and hearing don’t. Touch is the first sense that develops in utero.

Through touch we intimately become an extension to what surrounds us. We can sit a mile away from a beautiful sunset and still enjoy seeing it. You don’t need to seat next to the orchestra to hear and enjoy an opera. The sense of smell allows us to discover in our bedroom the wonderful aromas coming from our kitchen as dinner is prepared. But to touch, you have to come closely into contact with something or someone.

Skin receptors send signals to our brain to detect touch. Some receptors are more sensitive than others, like the Merkel cells in our lips, which help us enjoy the sweetness of a kiss.

Jesus in his mortal ministry touched the eyes of the blind to cause him to see. And the woman afflicted with the issue of blood touched the Master’s hem and she was healed.

With our touch we communicate caring, love, understanding, empathy, compassion, and every one of our feelings and emotions. With physical touch we create an intimacy that is sacred and should not be taken lightly.

With our touch we transmit energy, one to another. We heal ourselves and others when we use that sense wisely. When we don’t, when we misuse it by crossing boundaries which should never be crossed, we risk the danger of hurting others and ourselves.

Someone once said, “Never hold my hand if you are gonna break my heart.”

So, let us thread carefully and touch gently,

that our embraces may indeed become a manifestation of caring and friendship... and also the cure for cancer.

This is just my opinion…

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