One of the simple and great pleasures in my life at this moment is when our four month old grandson holds my hand. The sensation of his four month old hand and my hand together creates a feeling of unspeakable joy. Truth be told, he doesn't actually hold my hand, it's more like he holds my finger. Even more to the point, he not only holds my finger, but my heart, too. There is something universally profound and comforting about the simple act of two people holding hands. In fact, scientific research demonstrates the powerful effect on the brain that happens when two people touch or hold hands. Stress is reduced and people feel happier, simply by holding hands. Earlier this week, there was much written about the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I remember being a small boy and watching the show with my family and I distinctly remember the Beatles singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” a song that became the first of the group's many number one hits in America. Like the very act of love that the song celebrates, the words and tune of this song are as simple as they are memorable and the world loved it.
Today is Valentine's Day and I have long thought it important on this day to honor and celebrate all varieties and expressions of love, not only romantic love. Why limit this day to just one expression of love when life is full of so many other beautiful experiences of love? In that spirit, if I had to choose a love song to help celebrate all of these many different expressions and experiences of love, I cannot think of a better song than, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Even though this song refers to romantic love, the act of holding hands is a universal demonstration of all kinds of love.
In light of this thought, I have been reflecting on my life, both past and present, and reflecting on all of those with whom I have loved holding hands. Who have you loved to hold hands with through the years? Children? Lovers? Parents? Friends? It's inspiring and comforting to think of the many ways in which holding hands has provided comfort and expressed love throughout our lives.
Now I love holding the hand of my new grandson, just as I loved holding the hands of my children years ago. I have powerful memories of holding each of my parent's hands in the final days of their lives that I will always treasure. As a pastor, I have had the honor of holding hands with thousands of people as we prayed together. As an athlete I enjoy “high-fiving” a teammate or competitor after an inspiring performance, and it strikes me that giving someone a high five is an abbreviated form of holding hands. In fact, even the everyday act of shaking hands with someone is a momentary act of holding hands. Of course, I love holding hands with my wife, especially when I'm in need of reassurance or when we share a strong emotion. What list would you create from your life? Together our lists, if we were to share them, would indeed move us as we would come to awareness of the multitude of ways in which love is both expressed and experienced through the simple act of holding of hands.
After the Valentine's flowers have wilted and the chocolates have been eaten you always have at your disposal a simple, delightful and reassuring gift that you can offer on any day, your hand. Happy Valentine's Day to all of our readers and in the week ahead may you look around you in search of someone who would like to have you hold their hand.