Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hugs ARE Better Than Drugs!

Not long ago I spoke on 2 Corinthians 13:12 where Paul encouraged the Believers to "greet one another with a holy kiss." I believe there is a greater need for us to express affection within the Family of God. Here's what I said in that message:

Have you ever heard preachers or teachers say that a kiss on the cheek was the general social custom of the time, and that today since our custom is shaking hands that we should substitute a handshake instead of a kiss? That sounds good, but it causes us to miss a very important point. All it takes is a study of the secular customs of the Roman culture and you will find that KISSING ON THE CHEEK was NOT a regular form of greeting among friends - they would actually shake hands - or men would grasp each others forearms - haven’t you seen the movies? Spartacus says, “Andronicus, how are you? And he grabs his forearm. Actually handshaking originated to show that a person was not holding a knife or sword in their hand.

During the time Paul wrote this, a kiss on the cheek was a custom reserved for family members. It’s the same with us; we kiss our children, our parents and grandparents, and our brothers and sisters, but we rarely kiss strangers. The point Paul was making is that the people in our church aren’t strangers, we’re part of the Family of God. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, and when we gather together it’s like a family reunion. I never really liked for my Aunt Gertrude to kiss me because she wore a lot of lipstick and I usually had to wipe it off my face, but I sure loved her banana pudding so I endured her kisses! In other words, we should show the same affection here that we show to our biological family - maybe even more! Now I’m not advocating a frenzy of kissing, I’m just saying that we ought to be free to express holy affection to one another. That’s a lot better than getting one of those dead-fish handshakes and a mumbled hello.

Somebody sent me the picture (see above) of two infants. The story sounded almost too good to be true, but I checked out the facts and discovered that it is an inspirational, true story about the value of affection. Much of this information was gleaned from a blog by Donald DeMarco, a seminary professor in Cromwell, CT.

Kyrie (red dot on diaper) and Brielle Jackson were born on Oct. 17, 1995, a full 12 weeks ahead of their due date. At that time the standard practice at the Medical Centre of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, where the twins came into the world, was to place them in separate incubators in order to reduce the risk of infection.

Kyrie's birth weight was two pounds, three ounces. She gained weight quickly and slept calmly. Brielle, however, three pounds lighter than her sister, had breathing and heart-rate problems. The oxygen level in her blood was low, and her weight gain was slow. On Nov. 12, tiny Brielle went into critical condition. Her stick-thin arms and legs turned bluish-grey as she gasped for air. Her heart rate soared. The Jackson parents watched, terrified that their little daughter might die.

It is said that desperate moments call for desperate measures. Nurse Gayle Kasparian, after exhausting all the conventional remedies, decided to try a procedure that was common in parts of Europe, but virtually unknown in the United States. With parental permission, she placed the twins in the same bed. No sooner had she closed the incubator door, Brielle snuggled up to Kyrie and began to calm down. Within minutes, her blood-oxygen readings improved. As she dozed, Kyrie wrapped her left arm around her smaller sister. Brielle's heart rate stabilized and her temperature rose to normal.

In due time, the twins went home. Their parents placed them, once again, in the same bed where they continued to thrive. Even after five years, according to mom and dad, the twins still sleep together and, not surprisingly, still snuggle.

The photograph of Kyrie hugging her little sister, dubbed "the Rescuing Hug," appeared in both Life magazine and Reader's Digest. It brought fame to the pair and spurred a growing interest in co-bedding premature twins, triplets, and quads. The University of Massachusetts Memorial, for example, has co-bedded at least 100 sets of multiple-birth preemies. Observing this practice over a period of five years, the hospital staff there have not found a single case of twin-to-twin infection.

Someone has said that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and 12 for growth. This may not be mathematically accurate, but it does illuminate a truth about human beings: "I touch, therefore we are," is infinitely more revealing of human nature than "I think, therefore I am."

Science tells us that hugging is healthy in a variety of ways. It strengthens our immune system, reduces stress, assists sleep, and is an antidote to depression. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill state that cuddling with your spouse can be good for your blood pressure. Kathleen Keating may not tell us everything we want to know about the mutual benefits of hugging in her book, The Hug Therapy, but she does make it clear that hugging can be wonderfully therapeutic in a variety of ways for people of all ages.

We adults are often blind to the obvious. Sometimes, it takes two premature infants to remind us of what kind of beings we are. Through hugs and handshakes, smiles and squeezes, touches and tickles, kisses and cuddles, we honor and affirm one another. This is not something we need to learn. Brielle and Kyrie knew this long before they were conscious of it. But it is something we may need to re-learn, and surely something we should never forget.

So, as you head out into your world of people, don’t be asking yourself, “Who is going to hug me?” Instead be asking, “Who can I hug today?” Hugs are MUCH better than drugs!

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