Holding Hands–Reaching out to the Characters in YOUR Story.
I lay by my son as he falls asleep. He curls his small cherub 4-year-old body next to mine and he wraps his little hand around my thumb. “I love you too,” he says. Then follows it with, “Say that to me.”
As children we come into the world ready to grab hands, but having a hand only large enough to grab a finger – we start by wrapping five tiny fingers around the larger one of a caregiver –we do it without hesitation as we figure out how to reach out and connect, hold on to one another. In the case of my son, we even ask for what we need. As we get older we are much more careful about breaking those boundaries. We are careful to stay in our own spaces and too often we forget to reach out to one another. Today’s podcast is about connecting with touch: it’s about holding hands and how human touch links us, literally closes the gap between people, and how important that is – to all of us.
Stories are our lives in language. Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. I’m Lori Lee, and I’m excited for our future together of telling stories, evaluating our own stories, and lifting ourselves and others to greater places because of our control over our stories. This podcast is about empowerment and giving you, the listener, ideas to work with in making your stories work for you. Power serves you best when you know how to use it.
Last week we spoke about random acts of kindness and the stories we can participate in by keeping our eyes open for small, kind, daily acts. This week, we’re talking about holding hands.
There is a photo of me with my two sons, the youngest sitting on my lap, my hands unintentionally wrapped with his, our fingers interlaced, my thumbs caressing the backs of his soft, sweet, pudgy, three-year-old hand. It’s not something we pay attention to, just something we do.
In another memory, we cut our way across the Albertson’s parking lot and he hollers, “Mom, hold my hand so I don’t get run over.” His voice is high and sweet, and as quickly as I take his hand he decides he wants to brave it on his own and practice stepping over cracks.
A dance takes place as we interact. We reach out, we pull back, we want to know we are not alone, but we don’t want to be held back either. It’s a tricky two-step.
To hold someone’s hand is to connect: to offer friendship, protection, comfort, to make your way undivided through a crowd, to guide, to show affection. The Beatles sang “I want to hold your ha a and.” And the world sang with them.
In a world where we can feel alone in a sea of a million people, the chance to hold another’s hand can be a gift, an anchor, a place where for that moment you are not alone. For that moment you are joining forces. A joining of hands is a human action that allows us to connect, communicate, and exchange energy in a meaningful way. For however long the moment lasts we are unafraid to touch. And that is a beautiful moment.
I sat on a plane, flying home from Ohio, after our final weekend in an emotional intelligence workshop that had lasted 3 months. The people in that workshop had become family, and I lived thousands of miles away, in Utah. There was a good chance I wouldn’t see most of them again. We spent months working together on projects and learning, through the good and the bad, how to work together, play team, and love each other. After plenty of annoyance, quiet thoughts of frustration, numbers of calls to my life coach, I am proud to say that I finally came to a place of loving each of my team members for exactly where they were, taking them for their good and their bad and loving them in their own space – without judgment. It’s not very often that one gets to a fully loving consensus with a group of 44 different people – I’d never felt anything like it, and to leave them, like high school graduation, required an acceptance that things would never again be like they had been, because they couldn’t. Remember episode 11 and how we can’t step in the same river twice. As I felt the wheels of the plane lift off the tarmac it was the official separation from Ohio as I flew back to Utah, into the light-blue fall sky and away from the place, the people, the experiences. I reached across the seat and grabbed the hand of my friend who was sitting next to the window. The center seat was empty except for our hands clasped together as the flight gained altitude. Her grip was firm and comforting as I was present to the moment of leaving and the tears that ran down my cheek. We said nothing, just grasped hands as the wheels left the tarmac.
Human chains have been formed to demonstrate solidarity in a cause. Chains have been created that included millions of human beings, linking hands to boycott nuclear missiles, to call for peace, to seek for independence. Children link hands for a game of Red Rover – when the group is successful the chain in unbreakable. We hold hands during funerals, marches, vigils, and weddings. When the World Trade towers collapsed I watched people leaping from the impossible height, hand in hand. Falling together…together.
A couple months ago Annie Schmidt disappeared while hiking in Portland. She was from Utah, a beautiful young lady who had recently moved to Oregon. I look at her pictures, the gorgeous young woman full of life, and I am devastated. I know a bit about her family and I can’t help but put myself in her mother’s place, in her father’s place, and I struggle to hold back the tears. I think of my son who was diagnosed with Leukemia this summer. He is also a beautiful human being, a gorgeous, strong young man with a champion spirit, a solid heart, and a 5-star smile. He doesn’t complain as he fights. He gets up, eventually, and tries to go about his day in a meaningful fashion. My mind once or twice has looked into the ugly abyss of the possibility of losing him, but I push it away as quickly as it appears because my eyes tear up and my throat closes. I watch the news and the Sioux Indians fighting against the pipeline being pushed through their land, peeling back the plains the wild buffalo still run on in North Dakota. People are out there fighting for the things they love. They are fighting for their children, they are fighting for their relationships, they are fighting for their land, they are fighting for their lives. This world is not for the weak. The journey to create and preserve relationships is not for the weak. The journey of fighting disease is not for the weak. The journey of standing up for your rights and the things you think are important, against often what feels like unbeatable odds is not for the weak. The journey to keep putting one foot in front of the other when someone you love leaves you through death or some other reason. This is not for the weak either. So as we try to find our strength in the midst of our battles, hold hands. Hold hands because the feeling of having someone’s hand close around your own is the forming of a chain – linking two people together in love, in support, in joy, in being, in power.
Between lovers, couples, family, the human race, holding hands remains a sign of intimacy. Simple, but powerful. So much is said, is felt in a gesture. From intimately intertwined fingers, to the grasp across an airline seat, to a train of people tying themselves to one another so no one gets lost, to crossing the road with a child…there are a hundred reasons to hold hands, but they all come down to connecting, and connecting is why we are here. Thich Nhat Hanh said, “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” While this illusion is understandably difficult to break through, reaching out to hug someone, to hold a hand, physically bridges the gap for a moment.
Martha Beck, International Life Coach, said, “Relationships are the most important human experience available to us. I realized in my twenties that the meaning of life is not about what happens to people; it’s about what happens between people. Learning to connect with each other, to experience empathy, to step outside our own experience, and to experience love in all its forms—these, I believe, are the experiences for which we became human.”
In Galatians 6:2 it says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens…” When we reach out to grasp another person, to touch in a world filled with apparent separation. When we reach out to lift, to comfort, even just to connect with the squeeze of a hand there is an exchange of energy. An exchange that says, you’re not alone.
Driving home from Brianhead after a weekend of painful bliss on the mountain bike, there is a young blond child on her father’s shoulders staring at me from a billboard, her hands raised above her head, the American flag grasped in her pudgy fingers, the words UNITY blaring in black block letters. I’m listening to the Disney Spirit soundtrack and there is an orchestral crescendo as I speed by. It is moving in its own way.
I am returning from the Fat Tire Festival at Brianhead where along with seven others I was shuttled to and from some of the best mountain bike trails in the West. Thunder Mountain, seven miles of intermediate to advanced up and down sequences through and above red hoodoos and alpine canyons, was amazingly scenic, but the hills were kicking my butt.
Jason, a much better rider than I, peddled behind me yelling, “Shift down! You can do it! Go! Go! Go!” So I pushed harder even when I wanted to stop and cry. I become more because he stayed with me and reached out.
At major junctions and intersections on the trail the faster riders in our group stopped and waited for those in the rear. It was not required, but it united us in a way where, though at times we rode with no one else in sight, we knew we were not alone. We were making sure no one got lost, took the wrong path, got hurt, felt left out.
In Sunday School, or was it first grade, the teacher held up one popsicle stick and easily broke it. She then added five or six to the stack and the pile could no longer be broken. As I drove down the interstate, four lanes on each side, I wondered how many people were crying? How many people were excited about where they were headed as they sped along? How many people were alone or lonely? How five or six, or even two of us are stronger together than just a single stick resisting the pressures.
In the shuttle van and on the trail there were packets of energy gel and peanut butter shared back and forth as energy waned. People from the group were taking my photo at scenic overlooks and offering to send copies. Synergy, the interaction of different things so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of individual effects, is an exponential empowerment. If I give what I have to give, and you give what you have to give, we both have more. And if I give and you do not, I still have more because I become more than I was before I gave, and we are both richer for it. When I reach out to you, and you reach out to me, and we pull each other up when we are face-down in the arena (remember from episode 7) we become stronger because we are not alone.
Near Ogden Utah there is a billboard of Mother Teresa her hands reaching out to an unseen other, the words “reaching beyond yourself” emblazoned below her picture. I scratch a note to call my friend that just had her baby and see how she is doing. I’m thinking about the givers and takers of the world. There are times we will need the help, someone to encourage us up the hill, take us to dinner, call and check on us, take our hand; and there are times when we are lucky enough to be the giver. It takes both.
There is a beautiful piece of thin navy paper, an iridescent blue-green feather pasted down one side, a poem entitled “The Gift of an Angel by Your Side,” on the other, a small gold and blue pin with the words “blue bird of happiness” attached at the top, a hundred dollar bill and a friend’s handwriting beside the pin that says “Fly!”. It was handed to me during a difficult transitional time in a plain brown envelope with a hug and the direction to open when needed.
When your butt is kicked and a rider on the trail offers you her packet of GU, you love that rider. When you’ve taken all you can take and you’re about to bonk, that energy gel is not just a .99 cent package of rice syrup, potassium and caffeine, it’s pure gold, and sometimes it saves your life. Sometimes just knowing there is someone that cares enough to ride behind you hollering “You can do it!” says as much as a billboard. Sometimes the human race shines. And sometimes reaching out and holding another person’s hand says more than words because it says, in a gesture, I am with you, you are not alone, and we can cross this dangerous street together. And sometimes when someone reaches for your hand they are saying “I love you too, now say that to me.”
We come programmed to hold onto one another. We arrive hardwired to grasp hands, and if we are lucky and wise, we don’t lose our grip.
Your challenge for this week is to reach out more than you usually would. Use your wonderful hands to close the gap between you and someone you love, someone who needs you, or just because you want to connect. Bridge the gap.
Have fun telling and creating your stories this week, and I’ll see you next week on the next episode of Love Your Story Podcast. PS – Pass this podcast onto your friends and go to our website: www.loveyourstorypodcast.com and sign up for our weekly challenge/inspiration.