The crisis within the crisis: We’re losing touch

Reacting to the coronavirus pandemic, officials are forcing social distancing at the usually crowded Western Wall Plaza. (Mahmoud Illean photo)

I need a hug.

The coronavirus pandemic is killing thousands and making hundreds of thousands of people sick. It’s hitting billions of people in another painful way. It’s keeping us from social interaction.

The seventh in a series of daily posts.

Therefore, there are no hugs. No handshakes. No pats on the back. And for the most part, no gatherings.

That emergency run to the pharmacy or grocery store? Pay attention to the blue tape on the floor near the counter. It’s marking your six-foot perimeter. Over and over we’re told that we’ve got to be no closer than six feet apart.

Want to reach out to me as I reach out to you? The average arm length is 2.5 feet. Therefore, we’re still a foot short of touching in a six-feet-apart world.

Every run for groceries is pounding home the message of this crisis. America is desperately short on face masks, hand sanitizer and human touch.

This may be more important than you think. Studies have shown the benefits of human touch range from producing lower blood pressure to reducing headaches. Human touch helps us learn, cope and fall in love.

Without touch, bad things happen. See an act of violence? I’ll bet you this week’s stock portfolio that the culprit was a loner. Loneliness is the one thing all serial killers have in common.

Remember Samson? He was the strongest man in the Bible. He may also have been the loneliest. His Philistine “friends” were actually enemies. His girlfriend gave him the worst haircut of his life. And his community? Check out this story:

Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”

He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.”

They said to him, “We’ve come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.” – Judges 15:11-12

Samson’s community tied him up and handed him over to the enemy! He was surrounded by 3,000 people, but there wasn’t a friend in sight. His only touch was the cold steel of handcuffs clamping around his wrists.

OK, it was rope, and not handcuffs. But you get the point.

Samson went on to become the biggest disappointment in Israel’s leadership history.

Eight miles south and a few generations later, David was hiding in a cave, desperately hungry for a friend. He wrote a song about the experience, laying out his complaint to God.

Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
    no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
    no one cares for my life. (Psalm 142:4)

Apparently, God heard his prayer.

When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. (1 Samuel 22:1-2)

It wasn’t just 400 people. God sent David 400 friends.

And David went on to become the greatest leader in Israel’s history.

One man had no friends, no touch, and no success. Another had too many friends to count, lots of physical affirmation, and we’re still naming our sons after him today.

Spiritual application?

You need a hug.

And as soon as possible, we’re going to make that happen.