You deserve a hug

You deserve a hug

Covid has robbed us of many things – loved ones who died, family and friends who have been sick, some with very slow recovery, income – and opportunities to spend on what we like to do and have, the chance to travel and the learning that goes with it. You add to the list. I think one of the most widespread deprivations has been physical contact and meetings with others in our society.

I know that I long for a handshake, a hug, a kiss from those I know well. To feel the breath of the other person, to sense their movements and moods. Zoom does little of this for us. The cold transmission of facts and instructions is good for much of business. That is why much of business has thrived. But the loss of human contact and engagement has left us bereft of feelings we need to have and robbed us of emotions, some of which we may not even have realised existed.

Think of a walk down a country lane on a dark night. The pandemic is similar. Unlit, and without someone to hold your hand and shine a torch, the pathway is ominous, frightening, fearful. But if well lit, and you have a friend to hang on to, you feel much more reassured and confident. And here’s where the pandemic robs all of us – from senior government ministers to cement mixers on a building site. It takes our confidence and shatters it like a piece of cheap glass.

Some of that shattering was due, I think. Our burgeoning productivity, nonsensical high wages at the top, perhaps too much overconfidence all round. Exhibited by our profligate carbon creation, was all due for a knock. But it wasn’t due the wholesale loss of income and pride that we’ve had. Nor the lurking fear that accompanies any contagious disease with death as one end option. Our confidence has been trammeled – and that is exactly the right word for what has happened. Our scope for action has been suddenly restricted and we have to think our way out of that.

People were mostly adaptable and swift. Yes, we can criticise the roll-out of vaccines but the choices of drug and the promise of something even better round the corner have made people skeptical and often hesitant. They shouldn’t be – they should be vaccinated immediately. But for most, the handling of the pandemic was as good as it could be. Experience will teach us better for the next one but some things are truly difficult to change. The world must learn how to handle such things on a world basis, not a country by country basis with its border controls.

In particular we must learn that humans need social and physical contact. That doesn’t have to be literally physically doing so, it means the ability to do so. Anyone in a choir, or who participates in a gym, will know the importance of ‘physical presence’. No picture, film or Zoom can compete with it. So here’s a thought for you as we crawl and creep out of this pandemic. When you can, take people to lunch or dinner. Take family and friends and business acquaintances. Break the conventions, give them a hug. They will be delighted and will hug you back.

It’s not rocket science or a new invention. It’s not a panacea for the mental stress of Covid. It’s not something you can put a money value on. But the impact of a generous greeting, of establishing that you really are in the presence of someone, that you care about them and what they say and that their comfort and pleasure is more important than yours, cannot be overestimated.

My wife and I saw this in practice only the other day when two friends, a married couple, came to lunch at our home. The warmth of both sides’ greetings and the delight of the conversation were very refreshing and most encouraging. We are one world and you are an important part of it.

May post-Covid bring delicious exchanges and loving support for you and your families.

May you get the hugs you need to help you recover from this bad dream.

Good morning.

John Bittleston

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