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Shoulder to Shoulder

(Image extracted from Grace Wilson's illustration )

I read this Broadly article today.

While it’s very long, it covers an interesting range of topics related to physical interaction and the psychology of touch.

  • It implies the immorality of placing prisoners in solitary confinement.

  • It cites statistics on animals and humans who show better health when they receive “enough” touch.

  • It praises the Free Hugs movement and vaguely criticizes paying for cuddles.

Its boldest claim is one I wholeheartedly agree with. "Physical contact is a requirement of being human," says Kupers. "There's something healing about it. It [touch] is not just correlated with being human—it is being human."

Accordingly to the article, prolonged periods without touch create an issue that some refer to as “skin hunger.” I’m no psychologist but, for years, I have been speaking with friends about just wanting to be close to someone. Sometimes I get tired of talking. Sometimes the melancholy I feel today is no different than what I felt yesterday. But it seems like a hug or cuddle always makes things feel better. When I’m dating someone, the best part of it is having a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on. Unfortunately, I’m never dating anyone very long.

The Broadly article made this assertion also: “Research shows that people in Western societies overwhelmingly feel lonelier. According to the National Science Foundation's 2014 General Social Study, a quarter of Americans feel they have no one they can talk to about their problems.” I have to agree with that. I know I feel lonely very regularly. I don’t always feel comfortable talking with the people around me about what’s bothering me.

A couple of months ago, I was struggling through a situation. I had already talked it to death and wasn’t feeling any better. I called one more friend who said they would come over. They came, gave me a huge, long hug, and sat shoulder-to-shoulder with me while we watched sports movies. They didn’t ask any questions and our conversation was fairly minimal. I just enjoyed the company, and I think my “skin hunger” was assuaged. That kindness lingers in my mind and I long for it.

The article ends on the note of slight criticism of the Internet age and a call to perhaps give more free hugs. I think this is a good note. On Election Day, before casting my ballot, I walked out of school a little tense. I saw a coworker who asked me how I was. I told him and he responded with a big long bear hug. He told me to go home and put my feet up because my work for the day was done. That kindness surprised and moved me.

As the article tells us at the end, I think we ought to hug each other more. Instead of just texting, we should come over. As often as possible, we should travel to our loved ones’ doorsteps. We should bring food or a movie and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with people. They need it. We need it. We are all hungry for the right type of contact and for kindness.

Kindness truly is needed above everything.

Najah-Amatullah Hylton

Oklahoma Teacher and Poet



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