Because of widespread concerns about COVID-19, physical touching now brings special considerations to my life. I can’t touch my face—germs might sneak into my nose. Touching others during the Greeting of Peace is not medically advised. (See earlier note about shifty viruses.) I am cautioned not to come in contact with surfaces that are not yet cleansed of viral microorganisms. “Social distancing”—one method to slow the transmission of disease—means that any kind of tactile interchange might bring me closer to this novel cousin of the common cold.
Clearly, almost any kind of touching could be a risk. Hand-shaking, hugging, rubbing, kissing and tickling? Possibly dangerous. Perhaps the same for grazing, stroking or tapping. At first glance, NO TOUCHING seems to be the correct way to approach much of life right now. I understand the necessity for this way of living—I don’t want to come down with a crown-shaped virus that doesn’t have my best interests in mind.
While avoiding undue physical contact with just about anyone or anything, I still want to assure other people that I know and appreciate them at more than a surface level. If I give up interacting with others, I might have to face other equally risky outcomes—among them loneliness and loss of perspective.
What to do? Some possibilities….
First, I will wash my hands early and often. (Please excuse me while I disinfect this keyboard for a few moments?) I will carry facial tissues with me at all times. (This helps me change my nose- and face-scratching habits into Kleenex®-assisted touching.) If I start sneezing and coughing, I will confine myself to my writer’s cave deep in the Carpathians.
I will stay in touch. Letter-writing, e-mailing, texting and phoning don’t depend on face-to-face contact. I’ll read what you write, text or tell me. I’ll keep you in my prayers—the specific ones that zero in on God’s love and care. When we’re together in person, I’ll listen as intently as possible for a guy with hearing aids. I’ll look you in the eye and find reasons for both of us to smile—a kind of psychic touching, right?
Between now and those moments, I’m going to think about which physical touches might not fall into the category of disease-transmitters. I’m thinking that pats on the shoulder or gentle arm squeezes fit that category. (Fist- and elbow-walloping seem too bony, and that leg-touching thing seems like a good way for me to fall over!)
In case this crown-mimicking virus creates an even larger world-wide syndrome of separation, I want you to know that I remember you. Whatever may keep us apart will not obliterate fond and poignant memories of our relationship. Deep within my spirit, “in-touch” will remain a way of describing togetherness that comes from our being one in Christ. You and I will keep on being lively examples of God’s sometimes-mysterious way of touching all of us with love.
Even though you and I can’t connect to others with our hands, we’re still going to reach out, influencing and comforting. We’re going to keep strengthening those around us. We’re going to step around the kind of fear that draws joy out of our souls. We’re going to keep sending hope and love back and forth.
We’re going to keep in touch!
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