Shutterstock image purchased by Mike Walton
Description automatically generated
Shutterstock image purchased by Mike Walton
(from "Patches and Pins" by Mike Walton, (c) 1998)
Of all of the senses we have, touch is perhaps the second most important to me. Sight beats it out slightly, only because there are so many things to see and have my brain process. But touch is second-most.
I became aware of this sense as many of you probably have: from the touch of our mother's fingers and hands against our bodies as we were first held. An entire bevy of doctors and nurses and health-care professionals all state that this touch -- the first touch between mother and child -- starts the brain's connective tissues called "synapses" to form. It's like turning on a personal computer and waiting for the bootup sequence...the connections occur, and the small child's brain starts recording. We start remembering.
When we were little children, certain touches repelled us or attracted us. Remember the first time you felt water? Remember the first time you felt HOT water?? Even today, how do we "measure" the temperature of the water coming from a faucet? Not with our eyes, or with our nose. It's with our fingers...and our fingertips in particular.
The same held true when we held things which burned our fingers. In my case, it was the end of the car cigarette lighter. I wanted to find out how that red thing felt, so I stuck my finger to touch that red thing inside the cigarette lighter. Not only did I learn that it's VERY hot...but I also learned that it could heat the paper, which is one reason why you will NEVER find a cigarette lighter in any car I drive. I took them out and replaced them with plastic plugs.
As we grew, there were some touches which we appreciated. The touch of a round stone. A soft spring leaf. A smooth surface. The grip on a ball bat. The handle is separating it from the rest of the coffee or soup mug. There were other touches which we did not appreciate. The rough hands of someone about to punish or attack us. The roughness of an unsanded board. The coldness of a pipe.
In middle school, I learned two very important lessons about touch: along with a watch with a second hand or second timer, by gently pressing on an artery it can assist one in determining the heart rate of a person. Pressed down between artery and bone, it can stop blood flow to parts of the body. Those two things form some of the basics of self-care and later first aid.
Watching "Kung-Fu" and "Star Trek" gave me an appreciation for the mighty finger jab, which performed at the right spot could knock a person right out; and the Vulcan Mind Meld, which looked ever so cool on television.
In eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, where I was blessed to have worked for the BSA, I attended a lot of churches whereby people -- no more different than you or me -- laid their hands on someone who was ill, or someone needing a change in their lives, prayed and wailed..., and it happened. They felt better; they felt the need to change their lives. I won't say cured, because some people may not feel that a simple touch, blessed by their Creator, could make an ill person well. I will say that many hospitals use what is called "holistic touching" as part of their regimen toward curing cancers and other diseases...and for some reason, it works. Faith and that touch.
As I grew older, I was introduced to another touch. That's the emotional touch, frequently realized when something moved you unexpectedly to tears. Or anger. The punch line which made you laugh uncontrollably. Or any other set of emotions in between.
"That really touched me!" Nothing really physically touched you...but the emotions which came from watching something, or hearing something, or walking through something -- your experiences, your emotions, your body all gang upon you, and you feel "touched." The television shows "Highway to Heaven" and later "Touched by an Angel" is more about this form of emotional touching than was about a physical laying on the hands by Jonathan, Tess or the other angels.
Synapses. Working. Connecting.
Part of our charter in this new life we have as Scouts and Scouters forces us to touch others. That one smile we displayed may have brightened up the day for a mother and family. Those one sets of hands, assisting someone with their work and taking it to their vehicle; or holding their things while they go through their pockets or a purse to fish out the keys to the door. The watchful eyes, looking after their children while they pause the ladies or men's room. The voice, which yells "Taxi!" for a woman who could not call for one; or which calms down a group of people engaged in a conversation which has gotten out of hand. Those are all touches.
It takes a lot of bravery to touch someone, especially when they don't want to be touched. But that's our lot in life...to be of use to others. Part of the Order of the Arrow's Obligation sums it up: "...even in the midst of toiling tasks and weighty responsibilities, to be unselfish in the welfare and devotion to others..."
We know how to touch, and we know enough not to be burned nor to do things which are harmful to ourselves or others. A lot of us forget, however about the true power of our fingers, hands, and hearts.
Scouts and Scouters -- those of us who try our best to live up to those few words in the promise and laws we speak and repeat -- we know.