Looking back on the year 2020, I continue to reflect on lessons learned during the pandemic. The first two: 1) All plans are tentative 2) Slow down
Another lesson has been learning to touch people with words when not allowed to touch them physically. Having taught at the college level for over twenty-five years, trying to teach in 2020 was one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. The restrictions were many.
At our school, masks were required in all buildings on campus, even if you were by yourself in a hallway or bathroom. Masks also had to be worn when walking outside if you were not able to be six feet away from another person. Absolutely all touching was prohibited, even fist and elbow bumps. I was thankful to be able to teach from behind a small sheet of plastic glass instead of wearing a mask, but class discussions were still difficult when I couldn’t always tell which student was talking. The only thing that seemed to approach “normal life,” was being allowed to have a mask-less conversation with a student while sitting outside on two lawn chairs spaced six feet apart.
This whole situation was very hard for me on several levels. First, one of my highest love languages is physical touch and I knew that to be true for many of my students as well. Introverts and “non-huggers” were able to handle the restrictions much better than extroverts and huggers, but all humans beings were made to be touched.
What do you do when you are not allowed to physically touch someone? What do you do when you can’t even pat an arm or give a short hug to a worried or discouraged student? I began to try and give hugs with my words. I learned how to emotionally and spiritually touch students by using life-giving words of encouragement. Words spoken or written in love can speak life to others. Proverbs 18:21 say, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Reflections: When not allowed to physically touch someone, can you think of a creative way to touch someone with your spoken or written words?
An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.