Before I had six kids, I used to take my guitar to a local nursing home once a week. I’d sit in the lounge and sing folk songs with whoever showed up. We’d chat after a round of O, Susanna, or laugh when we couldn’t remember the words to the fourth verse of She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.
At the end of my visits, after I packed up my guitar, I’d always go around the circle and thank the residents for coming. I made a point of greeting each one of them with a touch. A little squeeze on the shoulder or a pat on the elbow were standard fare; sometimes the grandmas would clasp my hand and thank me for coming. I got the occasional wheelchair half-hug, or an arthritic handshake from one of the fellas. My ministry at the Villa was more about those moments of physical human encounter than it was about the goofy songs. For some of those residents, that was the only affectionate touch they received from a non-caretaker all week.
We now enter a time in human history where touch has become, well, just shy of illegal. Social distancing is in force everywhere. Unless it’s a household member, a caretaker, or a doctor examining a patient, touch is practically off limits. The human exchange has been robbed of one of its senses.
As we navigate the largest global tragedy that most of us have ever experienced, we are without the tool of physical compassion to ease the pain. This is tragic, but we understand why it must be so. In the wake of the loss of touch, however, I think about another sense that must rise to the forefront. The sense of sight.
This reminds me of another scene from the Villa. A gal named Doris wheeled into the lounge each week, holding the same Christmas card in her hand. She showed it to me every time. It was from her granddaughter — nothing at all remarkable about the thing, except that it meant Doris wasn’t forgotten. She carried that card around like it was her most precious possession. The girl wasn’t there to hug her, but seeing those words meant so much.
How can we, at this moment of physical distance, give a taste of that kind of comfort to those who are elderly, suffering, or alone? How can we fulfill the work of mercy — to visit the sick — when we are not allowed to enter their isolation?
I have an invitation for each of you and especially for your children. A way to reach out and touch those in distress, even if it is only to touch their hearts by way of their eyes.
Please visit DearWorldGetWellSoon.com and look at the messages of love and hope posted there by children who want to bring joy and comfort to the suffering. Then, please join in this effort by emailing your children’s drawings, paintings, and well wishes to email@example.com and share the site with your friends and family.
Join us in spreading the beauty of your children’s love, made tangible through their hands. Hands that cannot hug, but hands that can communicate a message of love and healing to those most in need.
Those of us who have a little more time these days, who have good health and happy children are blessed by the opportunity to pray for COVID-19 patients, to offer our little sufferings for them, and to concretely reach out to them in this way. And remember, this act of love will touch not only their hearts, but the heart of Our Lord as well.
“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40)
Copyright 2020 Gina Loehr
About the author: Gina Loehr is a farmer’s wife and the author of five books, including The Church is Our Mother: Seven Ways She Inspires us to Love.