Bargell: Holding on
We all talk with our hands. From a hearty high-five to a handshake and some of the more unsavory communication in between, our hands often are our ambassadors. So, when I noticed the couple in the pew in front of me holding hands, I first wondered if they had been in a fight, were calming down and holding hands to make up. In their early 60s by my guess, I just couldn’t help noticing their hands clasped together. Sure enough, each time they got to their feet they were mano en mano once again. Instead of being annoyed by the PDA, I had to admit it seemed kind of, well, sweet. As they departed through the back door their hands were still linked, and even though we never said a word to one another, they spoke volumes to me.
It reminded me a bit of the surprise I feel when our youngest still slips her hand into mine when we occasionally go for walks. Gone are the days of demanding the kids take my hand, or skirt or any other available appendage while navigating a parking lot. The feel of her small hand in mine is not as familiar, making it all the more cherished. I used to eschew hand-holding on hikes – it threw me off balance, and I couldn’t move along the trail as quickly as I liked. Now, I’ll gladly take a hand, recognizing the trail will still be there when the kids are grown, but that small hand will forever be a memory.
I mentioned my current hand-holding fixation to a friend in passing. She had recently renewed her wedding vows after 20 years of marriage, and I wanted her to know I thought it inspiring – and brave. Brave mostly because this time they had “Elvis” preside over the festivities. She told me that she was inspired by her grandparents who have been married for 70 years (yikes). She surprised me even more by sharing that part of her inspiration comes from the fact they still hold hands, even after 70 years, and not just for balance. Through that simple gesture, they have given a gift to their granddaughter, probably without even knowing the impact they have made. Of all the things we share with our kids it occurs to me that simply holding hands is something that takes no money, very little effort (most of the time), and can set an example far better than words often do.
A friend of mine always makes it a point of grabbing my hand when I see her, and looking me straight in the eye. Somehow, through that gesture, I know with certainty she’s there for me. Her touch assures me far more than words can, and the warmth of her spirit stays with me long after she lets go.
It didn’t take too long to find an official study on the psychological benefits of hand-holding in the journal Psychological Science. One has to wonder why there are studies of the blatantly obvious, but at least my suspicions were confirmed – it just can’t hurt to reach out and grab the hand of someone you care about. You could try it on strangers too, although no guaranty it will end up as well.
It’s hard to think of an easier gesture that has the potential to impart so many different messages. There’s even that chance to hear a hand talking back, because if you are really still you can feel a faint heart beat in the person’s hand you hold. Maybe the couple in front of me always holds hands, or maybe they just needed each other that day, either way it doesn’t really matter. It only matters what I choose to let my hands say.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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