From the moment we are born, we experience human connection. Touch, feel, and smell are all so important to an infant. Rocking, bathing, holding, coddling, and swaddling play a major roll in our development. Were we breast-fed? Were we rocked enough? Did someone hold us enough when we cried? All of the different ways we received affection as a child become part of who we are and remain as the image we live into throughout our lives.
As teens and adults, when we experience the death of someone, a breakup, or other necessary endings that strongly affect our lives, we long to be hugged and held when we cry. Human connection makes us feel better, wanted, and warmer inside.
When I began fundraising for families many years ago, before I even thought about picking up a pencil and writing a book, I learned that raising money could be somewhat easy (though it is grueling work!). But finding out which cause people wanted to help was more challenging. I had to ask myself and ask my husband when we would be most generous. And the cause we selected was children. Everyone wants to help a child. No child should suffer through hunger, illness, or a lack of love. We all need these things, but children cannot help themselves. They rely on us in a different way.
I found that during my interactions with the people that we chose to help—whether a local family or families at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where my own life was saved—a simple hug immediately connected us. From that moment on, I wanted to help them, and they felt strongly about wanting to do something for me in return. You see, human connection is a choice we make. And others can quickly feel when we’re making the choice to say, “You matter.”
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Years have now gone by, and my husband and I have helped raise millions of dollars for families and charities supporting children facing catastrophic illness. My decision to connect with others has led me on a journey that allows me to learn about humanity and life from so many families who are fighting to survive. Physically touching them is my way of showing them I am another human being who truly cares.
A hug goes a long way.
As does a hand on a shoulder or another hand, or a simple touch of an elbow.
The truth is that I care for people, and my use of touch is not strategic or manipulative. The need to reach out and hold onto another person comes from my soul.
Tennessee Williams wrote the line, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I have experienced life from the other side of that equation as the one who reaches out with kindness first. And I can tell you without hesitation that I am the one who has benefitted most from the beauty of others because they have opened up as a result of my invitation.
So ask yourself if you are avoiding connection. How might your life be different if you made the choice to connect more often—if you made the choice to be present and open and willing to connect with a stranger in need?